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smartway logoWhat You Can Do About Transportation-Related
Climate Change

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If your family is like most families, you need the basics -- food, clothing, medical and personal care, lawn and garden supplies, automotive and household goods –to sustain your family's health and well-being, and to maintain your home and cars.  Then, there is all the extra stuff your family uses for hobbies and interests:  recreational and sports equipment; computers and mobile gadgets; plants and garden supplies; gourmet food and cookware; hiking, camping, boating, skiing, and bicycling gear; the latest book or movie; extra school supplies; tools and materials for craft and home projects; toys for the kids (and pets!); special items for the home; gifts for friends and family; plus the thousands of other consumer products and goods that make life more interesting, easy and fun.


"You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more."

How Does it All Get Here?

Did you ever wonder how all this stuff gets to you from wherever it was grown or produced?  Most of the products we use reach us or our local store via a truck, train, airplane, barge or ship –sometimes all the above!

 About a third of our nation's petroleum use and one fourth of our nation's climate emissions come from transportation.

The energy used each day in shipping billions of consumer items across the country creates carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change.

How Climate Change Affects Us

Climate change can have a direct impact on individuals, families and communities.  For example, more frequent, intense and/or volatile weather events like floods, drought and extreme temperatures can damage crops and increase the need for pest control, fertilizers, and irrigation.  Reduced crop yields can lead to higher food prices and put farmers’ livelihoods at risk.  Increased irrigation can stress water resources, creating conflicts among communities and states, and between farmers and their less rural neighbors. 

Changes to the ecosystem can also alter plant and animal habitat and migratory patterns, harm wildlife and game populations; cause damage to parks, property and infrastructure; and put human lives at risk. 

As carbon dioxide levels in our environment rise, the oceans absorb more carbon and become more acidic.  Changing the ocean’s chemistry can hurt marine ecosystems and wildlife and threaten the marine food chain.  Higher ocean temperature also causes sea levels to rise and encroach upon coastlines and underground aquifers.  These changes can threaten our infrastructure, homes, beaches, wetlands, and fresh water supplies.

One simple and cost-effective way to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change is to reduce the carbon footprint of the hundreds of products and goods that individuals and families use everyday, by reducing the fuel used to ship them to us.

How EPA is Making A Difference

Many companies are already taking steps to reduce their transportation fuel use, because they understand that reducing carbon dioxide pollution protects the health and well being of the communities they serve and contributes to a more sustainable environment.  They also understand that using less fuel strengthens our nation’s energy independence and cuts costs.

These companies partner with the US Environmental Protection Agency in the SmartWay Transport program.  Companies that join SmartWay commit to measure and reduce greenhouse gases and other harmful air pollutants by using cleaner and more efficient options to ship and deliver goods. 

What You Can Do to Help

Many of us choose a car, SUV, or pickup because of our lifestyle. It's important to choose wisely, because that vehicle is going to be what takes you to school, to work, or out shopping. Most importantly, you'll use it to transport your most precious cargo - you, your family, and your friends.

At the same time our vehicles are a major source of emissions that contribute to climate change and air pollution. Fortunately, there are many ways you can reduce the emissions that your vehicle generates - and save money at the same time!

Here are some tips and suggestions that will help reduce the impact your vehicle has on the environment:

Buy smart

Use our Green Vehicle Guide as a resource when you select your next car, SUV or light truck. The Green Vehicle Guide provides consumers with information on vehicle emissions, advanced technology vehicles, and alternative fuels – plus infographics, calculators, videos, and the ability to search for SmartWay certified cars and trucks.

Drive smart

  • Be aware of your speed - obeying highway speed limits can save fuel, as well as prevent pollution.
  • Avoid rapid accelerations and braking, which burn more fuel.
  • Use cruise control and overdrive gears.
  • When you aren't in traffic, turn off the engine rather than idle for more than 30 seconds.
  • Remove excess weight from your trunk, and if you have a removable roof rack and aren't using it, take it off.

Take care of your vehicle

  • Your vehicle is designed to perform best when maintained according to the instructions found in the owner's manual. A poorly maintained vehicle can pollute more and be less fuel-efficient than one that's well maintained. If the "Service Engine Soon" light comes on, you may have an emissions problem, so have your vehicle checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated: low tire pressure reduces fuel economy.
  • Replace your air filter regularly. a clogged air filter can reduce fuel economy significantly.

Drive less

  • Whenever possible, combine activities and errands into one trip.
  • Take advantage of public transportation and carpooling.
  • Bicycling or walking can be suitable (and healthy) transportation alternatives.

Refuel Wisely

  • Gas fumes are harmful to you and the environment. Topping off your tank beyond the automatic shutoff point will cause fuel spills and emit more toxic fumes into the air.
  • In very hot weather try to refuel early in the cooler morning or late evening hours to limit your exposure to fumes.
  • If you live in an area that has Ozone Action Days, try to avoid filling up on those days.

Use Renewable Fuels

  • Visit the alternative fuel options tab to learn about fuel choices and how to find alternative fueling stations near you.

SmartWay Certified Passenger Vehicles

Purchasing the most environmentally friendly vehicle can be a challenge. One easy way to help you save fuel, money and the environment is to look for the SmartWay mark. For more information on SmartWay certification for light duty vehicles, or to search for a SmartWay certified car or truck, visit EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide.

Considering Alternative Fuel Options

The fuel burned by cars, SUVs and pickups is the source of the air pollution they generate. Alternatively-fueled vehicles can do a lot to help reduce emissions, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Consider these alternative fuel options:

Ethanol (E85)

Most vehicles currently use a blend of traditional gasoline combined with about10 percent ethanol. However, if you own a flex fuel vehicle or FFV (PDF), (3pp, 513K, EPA 420-F-10-010, May 2010) you can fill your tank up with a fuel blend containing 85 percent ethanol.  Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from plants such as corn, sugar cane, and grasses, and can provide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  The availability of E85 is expanding rapidly, so be sure to look out for it at your local stations.


If you own a newer model diesel truck from a standard pickup to a large, commercial truck biodiesel can most likely be used to run your vehicle. Like ethanol, biodiesel (PDF) (3pp, 110K, EPA 420-F-10-009, May 2010) is a renewable source of energy. It is an alternative fuel that is generated from vegetable oils and fats.

Electric Motors, Natural Gas and Propane

Many automobile manufacturers now offer hybrid vehicles that combine gasoline engines and electric motors. Pure electric vehicles are also starting to enter the market. Natural gas and propane are clean-burning alternatives that are frequently used in commercial or municipal vehicles, such as city buses, and may be found in some personal vehicles.

As development of alternative fuels continues, hydrogen fuel cells and other emerging technologies will broaden your fuel options.

Additional Choices that Reduce Pollution from Vehicles

In addition to using ethanol blends, biodiesel or other alternative fuels appropriate for your vehicle, there are other choices you can make to reduce your vehicle’s emissions.

How you drive, how well you maintain your car and how you fill up your car all affect the impact you have on the environment. Visit the Buy and Drive Smart page to learn more about these choices.

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Other Vehicle Resources

If you are interested in transportation and the environment and what you can do to make a difference, the following sites offer additional information:

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Fuel Economy Guides

The US Department of Energy works to improve our country’s energy efficiency and to promote renewable source of energy. Their Fuel Economy Guides are a great resource for learning more about how energy-efficient your car, SUV or pickup really is.

Learn more Exit EPA Disclaimer

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Clean School Bus USA Program

The Clean School Bus USA program works to reduce both children's exposure to diesel exhaust and the amount of air pollution created by diesel school buses.
Learn more


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Climate Change Kids Site

Games, links, climate animations and lots of great information for kids (and their parents and teachers)!
Learn more

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Climate Change: Health and Environmental Effects

The EPA offers a useful guide to the human health and environmental effects of climate change. Learn how your health and the health of our forests, coastal areas, water resources and more are impacted by climate variability and change.
Learn more


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Alternative Fuels Data

EPA promotes the use of environmentally beneficial alternative fuels and vehicles.
Learn more


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Climate Change: What You Can Do

Twenty-five easy steps you can take to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution, increase the nation's energy independence and save money.
Learn more


This page is maintained by EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ).
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