Fossil fuels are at the root of accelerating climate change, so we often hold up advanced technology cars–like hybrids and plug-ins–as the key to a low-carbon lifestyle. But what if you don’t need a new car right now? Or if you simply can’t afford a hybrid? Worse yet, what if driving these high-tech cars doesn’t really make a difference for the planet?
A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that while buying a Prius or Nissan LEAF plug-in will definitely reduce your gas consumption and personal transportation emissions, these cars really aren’t having the impact we think they are when it comes to taking a bite out of climate change.
“Researchers look at 108 scenarios for adoption of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and full battery electric vehicles between now and 2050…” reports Fast Co. Exist. “Even assuming electric vehicle adoption rates approaching 50%, the effect in carbon emissions was negligible, they found.”
The main reasons for this are that: a) much of our electricity still comes from fossil fuels and nuclear power; and b) personal vehicles only account for about 20 percent of the average person’s emissions. So if you’ve been feeling guilty because you’re still driving a gas-powered car, you can stop now. The only ones really making a difference are those charging their vehicles entirely through solar or wind power.
The good news is, the inability (or after that news, lack of desire) to buy a hybrid doesn’t mean you can’t still make a difference with your daily actions. In fact, here are three that will go a lot further than driving a high-tech car.
3 Actions That Are Better For the Planet Than Buying a Hybrid
1. Use Green Energy
No, we can’t all put solar panels on our home or erect a wind turbine in our yard (yet!), but it’s much easier to source a portion of your electricity from renewable energy than you may think. If you live in the USA, check out this “Green Power Locator” from the EPA. It will help you find out if your utility has green energy for sale, and direct you to the proper channels for signing up. In some cases, it may cost a penny or two more per kWh, but you’ll rest easy knowing you’re helping to support local renewable energy generation, rather than fossil fuels.
2. Drive Your Car Less
Sure a hybrid can help you spend less at the pump, but you know what else can do that? Not driving as much. Walking or taking public transportation whenever possible takes a big bite out of your carbon footprint. Can’t do everything on foot? The rapid growth of peer-to-peer car sharing, bike sharing and ride sharing services makes it possible to get where you’re going without a personal vehicle. You’ll also save money by not paying for insurance or repairs! (For a big list of car, bike and ride sharing services around the world, check out my book, Sharing is Good).
3. Stop Leaking
The biggest source of carbon emissions is electricity generation. We use vast amounts of electrical power to heat and cool our homes, schools and offices. Sadly, many of these buildings are inefficient, allowing much of this energy to escape through cracks, poorly insulated walls and out of date windows. Simply sealing up these leaks can go a long way toward reducing energy consumption. And while you’re at it, make sure your appliances aren’t leaching energy while they’re not in use. For tips, see: 5 Easy Ways To Save Money This Winter; Tips to Conserve Energy Costs This Summer; and Simple Home Energy Conservation Tips.
All images via Thinkstock