Cars and Pollution

The average car produces between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year.

suvcartoon2The pollution created by cars causes toxic carcinogens and nerve damagers that contribute to respiratory problems, smog, and climate change. Auto manufacturing is the largest source of mercury pollution in Canada, and is responsible for most of the world’s lead pollution. In addition, plastic used for dashboards, door panels, and weather stripping contains phthalates.

Oil refineries release hazardous and polluting toxins, specifically benzene and other VOCs, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide. In addition to the pollution generated during the building process, there is the devastation cause by spills during the transportation of oil.  In 2005, there were 21 spills of less than 700 tons and three spills of more than 700 tons of oil. The memorable spill of Exxon Valdez in 1989 ranks 35th in major spills of the last 30 years; it was 37,000 tons.

Not driving is not always an option. But you can still recognize the effect driving has on the environment and work to reduce your impact. Run errands or commute to school without driving. Carpooling is an excellent way to reduce the impact and cost of driving.

If you are buying a car, choose the most fuel-efficient car that you can afford and consider the long-term cost savings of a fuel-efficient car. Look for the EnerGuide label and check Consumer Reports for information on which cars are environmentally friendly and a reliable purchase. Green Book: The Environmental Guide to Cars & Trucks, released by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), is also an excellent source. This resource assesses vehicles based on their fuel consumption and emissions; the pollution from manufacturing the car; the pollution created by the production and distribution of the fuel; and the emissions and their health effects. The greenest car was ranked 57 out of 100 – which says a lot about the pollution cars are producing.

Greenpeace reports that if every driver cut back five minutes of driving every day, it would save 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and 1.7 litres of fuel…in Canada alone!

Also according to Greenpeace, motorcycles and scooters create 10 times the CO2 and 14 times more hydrocarbons per year than the average car.

When buying a car:

  • Choose the smallest car that makes sense for you
  • Choose the most fuel efficient car you can afford
  • Use antifreeze made from propylene glycol (less toxic and biodegradable) or use a recycled product
  • Don’t use the air conditioning unless it is truly necessary


If you are going to drive:

  • Don’t idle. Turn your ignition off when you are going to be stopped for longer than 10 seconds
  • Use the lowest octane gas recommended for your car
  • Keep your vehicle well-tuned
  • Check your tire pressure once a month
  • Carpool and offer rides on ride share boards

Alternative transportations
There are plenty of transportation options available to us that don’t require the use of a car. These alternatives are better for the environment and for our health. Active forms of transportation (biking and walking) are an excellent way to stay healthy and reduce your ecological footprint.

Active Transportation
Commuting by walking, biking, rollerblading, or skateboards is an ideal form of transportation. It helps to keep you healthy by increasing the amount of exercise that you get and decreasing stress. These forms of transportation don’t create any emissions. Choosing a 6 km bike trip over a car saves 7kg of air pollution. In fact, 100 bicycles can be built with the same energy it takes to produce one car. Bicycles are relatively affordable, especially if you purchase a second-hand one, and there are bike co-ops all over the country that make it affordable to repair and keep your bike in great condition.

Public Transportation
When time and weather don’t make it ideal for active transportation, many of us have access to amazing systems of public transportation.

> A guide to clean and efficient vehicle technologies in Canada

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