This past April, the United States signed the Paris Agreement, committing the nation to greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan last August, which focuses on ensuring greener power plants. But individual Americans remain unsure about what they can do to combat climate change. A new study released by the University of Michigan analyzed practical steps that ordinary Americans can take to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report found that the biggest step Americans can take to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions lies in what and how we drive. The average consumer has the most influence on light-duty vehicles, including cars, SUVs, vans etc. This may not seem impressive, but light-duty vehicles actually make up 16.2% of the United States’ total emissions, giving consumers incredible power to help fight global warming.
The biggest change consumers can make to help fight global warming lies in what you drive. According to the report, the only way consumers can reduce emissions by 5% to 10% is to drive a more fuel efficient vehicle. Currently, the average fuel economy is 21.4 mpg. If the average was raised to 31 mpg, consumers would reduce total emissions by 5%! Not only would this change help the environment, but it would help consumers as well.
A recent report by Consumers Union that found that drivers whose cars have better fuel economy are more satisfied with their cars than other drivers, even drivers with the same car models. For one car model, drivers reporting 15 mpg aligned with a 45% satisfaction rate. But for the same car achieving 30 mpg, 70% drivers reported being satisfied with their purchase! Another Consumers Union survey found that consumers overwhelming support improved fuel efficiency. 84% of survey participants agreed that ‘Automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all vehicle types’ and 70% of consumers believe that the ‘U.S. government should continue to increase fuel efficiency standards.’ If every driver in the United States started driving more fuel efficient cars not only would they reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5%, but they would also increase the chances they would be more satisfied with their vehicle!
The next change consumers can make to help combat climate change is how you drive. While it may seem obvious, if all drivers drove 1% less, it would reduce 1% of driving emissions. There are many ways to reduce the amount you drive between carpooling, taking public transportation or walking or biking for nearby errands but if these aren’t for you, there are other easy ways to help reduce emissions. The report finds that aggressive driving and high speed driving are two areas with great potential for reducing emissions.
Eliminating aggressive driving, characterized by frequent hard stops and rapid accelerations, can lead to 5% fuel savings for consumers and a 0.8% reduction in total emissions. Drivers who eliminate high speed driving, defined differently for every vehicle, can reduce overall fuel consumption by 5% and a 0.8% reduction in total emissions. Together, a driver who stops aggressive driving as well as high speed driving can reduce total emissions by 1.6%.
Other ways to reduce emissions include changing your residential energy consumption through switching to LED lights and using less air-conditioning and heating. While residential energy consumption makes up 17% of total emissions, the biggest impact consumers can have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes from driving cars with better fuel efficiency. Consumers who make the switch to cars with better fuel efficiency also experience greater satisfaction with their cars. This win-win for consumers highlights how individual consumers can benefit while also making a big impact in the fight to cut carbon pollution.
Check out this list of cars with the best and worst fuel economy and do your part to reduce climate change!