Meg Thomson
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Plant a Tree to Offset Your Car’s Carbon Emissions

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Person Planting a Plant

Photo:Raw Pixel

One passenger vehicle emits an average of 4.6 tons — or 9,200 pounds — of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year. While other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide are present in vehicle emissions, carbon dioxide is the largest concern for environmentalists, making up 81% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide pollutes the air we breathe and has a significant impact on our environment. And if you drive a gas-powered vehicle, your car is releasing approximately 404 grams of carbon dioxide into the air with every mile you drive.

But reducing your carbon footprint isn’t hopeless. Of course, it’s important to note that the most eco-friendly option is driving an electric vehicle; unfortunately, not everyone can afford to fork over the extra cash. Your first step should be to reduce your carbon emissions through better driving habits, combining errands, and walking or bicycling when you can. We want to create less harmful emissions to begin with, which will help us deal with the ones we do still create. For the times when you do get behind the wheel of a gas-powered vehicle, you can still help offset your car’s carbon emissions.

You probably learned about the process of photosynthesis growing up, but for those of you who haven’t revisited the process since you were in grade school (i.e. most of us), here is a highly oversimplified portion of how it works: similar to the way we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, plants take in carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen. In turn, adding plants into our ecosystems helps to remove excess carbon dioxide from the air.

However, with deforestation running rampant, emission problems are getting worse, not better. Approximately 18.7 million acres of forests are being cut down every year.

So what can we do? Well, we can start adding more plants into our environment.

It’s unrealistic to think that one person can repopulate the Amazon Rainforest, but every little bit counts. If each resident in Columbus, Ohio, planted one tree, those trees would absorb nearly 41.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide in just one year, counteracting the emissions of almost 4,500 passenger vehicles.

If you have a large yard or garden, consider adding a tree to your landscaping plan. You can also join local efforts to plant trees in your community. On a smaller scale, try adding plant life to your outdoor space — whether than be a balcony, patio, front porch, or back yard — and work to reduce your paper consumption.

It’s important to note that while trees can help us reduce our carbon footprints, we shouldn’t rely on them to take care of everything for us. As dwellers of this Earth, we should be conscious of how we are treating it. Transportation makes up the largest portion of all greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, electric vehicles are slowly making their way into mainstream production. As consumers, raising our standards and demanding more eco-friendly products just might be the final push automakers need to shift to a more sustainable industry.

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (here and here), Britannica, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), American Forests, U.S. Census Bureau