Best Ways to Increase Your Sustainability on a Road Trip

Road Trip
Photo credit (miroslav_1/Getty Images)
By Lori Melton

Taking a road trip with family or friends is a fun way to spend a summer vacation. Driving across the country allows you to explore and catch some sights you would miss if you travel by plane.

Picking a destination, plotting a course, packing essentials, and creating a road-tripping playlist are just some of the steps you can take to prepare for your grand adventure. Before you hit the road, it’s also important to consider how to protect the environment along the way.

Of course, driving an electric or hybrid vehicle would be ideal. However, if you don’t own one, there are plenty of other ways to boost sustainability on your next road trip. Simply follow some of these suggestions below.

Make Sure the Car is Road-Ready

Getting a thorough vehicle inspection before you hit the highway is important for several reasons, top among them is passenger safety. Checking tire pressure and fluid levels such as engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and coolant levels will help identify any leaks or low tires. Plus, ensuring all vehicle systems are in proper working order will give you peace of mind, help prevent an unwanted mishap, and help maximize your car’s energy efficiency, which is better for the environment.

Pack Reusable Items in Eco-Friendly Bags

Packing as lightly as possible will allow passengers to ride more comfortably. And, lightening the cargo load will also increase fuel efficiency, which helps reduce harmful emissions.

Furthermore, when gathering essentials, consider bringing reusable travel mugs, water bottles, and a stainless-steel straw. Using these items instead of disposable coffee cups, single-use plastic soda and water bottles, and plastic straws reduces the amount of waste being sent to landfills. It also helps protect marine creatures that are dying from ingesting these kinds of non-biodegradable waste.

Moreover, consider packing clothes and other trip essentials in eco-friendly duffel bags, totes, and backpacks. One eco-conscious retailer, tentree, plants ten trees for every item sold, which is a nice double sustainable benefit when using their bags.

Unplug Home Appliances

Any time you leave home for vacation, it’s a good eco-conscious practice to unplug any appliances and electronic devices which won’t be used while you’re away. These items still draw energy even when they’re plugged in and turned off.

Common items to unplug can include the coffeemaker, toaster, blender, cooling fans, laptop or desktop computer, printer, charging cables, and any other items which require electricity.

Drive Responsibly

Unfortunately, traditional gasoline-powered cars release harmful greenhouse gases. Therefore, driving responsibly reduces your vehicle’s carbon footprint.

According to the Department of Energy, driving aggressively by speeding or stopping and accelerating abruptly lowers gas mileage by 15 to 30 percent on the highway and 10 to 40 percent in stop-and-go traffic. However, maintaining the speed limit, using cruise control, avoiding rooftop cargo, and refraining from excess idling will help increase fuel economy.

Furthermore, getting lost can cause you to rack up unwanted miles and burn more fuel. Using maps and GPS will help you reach your destination in the shortest time and help conserve fuel.

Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Emitting some carbon dioxide while driving a gasoline-powered vehicle is unavoidable. However, you can use a free online carbon calculator to figure metric tons of CO2 emissions you use and convert it to dollars. Clicking “offset now” presents options to donate the calculated amount to eco-friendly projects, such as providing clean water in Central America.

Don’t Litter and Do Recycle

Finally, refraining from littering while making sure to recycle along the way are two of the easiest things you can do to make your road trip more sustainable. First, never throw trash out a car window. Pollution damages the natural environment and can hurt wildlife. Second, if possible, recycle items as you go.

Carry a couple of cloth reusable cloth grocery bags to separate recyclables and trash. As you stop for food or gas, dispose of any trash at the nearest garbage can. You can also find the nearest recycling centers on your route by using Earth911’s recycling locator. If one isn’t close by, be sure to recycle items when you get home.