The last time I rented a car, I was able to help the environment by tacking on a mere $1.25 to my rental cost. Granted, I’m still driving and spewing CO2 — but that small amount allowed me to offset my contribution to the carbon emissions generated by the typical rental car: about 300 pounds.
More rental companies are offering carbon offsets
Enterprise, National and Alamo car rental firms — three brands that comprise a single corporation — offer customers the opportunity to pay the $1.25 fee to fund certified offset projects (through partner Terra Pass) that work to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The cost is based on the average CO2 emissions generated during a single rental by a car operating in the company’s fleet. Even better, the firms’ charitable foundation will match customer contributions to a total of $1 million.
According to information provided by the company, for every 100,000 customers who opt to take part in the program, their efforts will offset more than 30 million pounds — or 13, 500 metric tons — of CO2.
Launched in 2008, the project attracted 176,024 participants in its first year. Their contributions, matched by the corporate foundation, raised over $440,000 to purchase carbon offsets. The money went to aid two endeavors: a Maryland landfill instituting innovative CO2 reduction methods in its operations (setting benchmarks for other landfills) and a large family dairy farm in Michigan pioneering the use of digestors that capture and replace methane gas expelled by its 3,000 cows.
The total amount of CO2 offset in the program’s first year was 42,361 metric tons. Using equivalency data from the EPA, the company says that’s roughly equal to:
- 7,758 vehicles operating for one year
- 4.8 million gallons of gasoline
- 98,514 barrels of oil
- 5,611 homes’ electricity use for one year
- 295 acres of forest preserved from cutting
Hybrid rentals are getting easier to find
Car rental companies are also stepping up to meet consumer demand for more fuel-efficient cars. Enterprise, National and Alamo claim the greatest percentage of cars achieving 28 mpg or better (48 percent of their entire fleet), with 25 percent of the fleet getting 32 mpg or better.
Hybrid rentals are getting easier to find, with Enterprise and Hertz leading the pack, according to Hybrid Cars’ Guide to Hybrid Car Rentals. When you rent a Toyota Prius, you’ll save plenty on gas. They average 50 mpg.
And if you’re headed for Los Angeles or Maui, check out Bio-Beetle, offering biodiesel-compatible rental cars including Volkswagen Beetles, Golfs and Jettas.
No matter what color of rental car you prefer, make sure it comes with a nice green cast.