The sun is shining, you’ve packed up the car and the kids have been wrangled into their seats – your road trip is about to begin. Hitting the open road for a couple of days is a favorite way to spend a vacation for many Americans; AAA estimated that more than 93 million Americans traveled more than 50 miles to celebrate the holidays in 2012. While road-tripping is a great way to spend time with friends and family, it isn’t always great for the environment. Here are just a few ways that you can make your road trip one that is eco-friendly:
If you plan to rent a car for your road trip, consider getting one that is better for the environment. The Chevy Cruze gets a whopping 46 miles to the gallon, which is not only kinder to the environment than many cars, it is also kinder to your wallet. Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius can reach up to 51 miles per gallon in cities and 48 miles per gallon on highways, according to 2014 EPA estimates published by Toyota. Fuel efficiency means fewer stops on the way to your destination and better savings on gas, making renting a fuel efficient car a win for you and Mother Nature. Planning to rent? View our top picks for road trip rental cars!
If you are using your own car, consider doing some basic maintenance before any long road trip, especially if it has been a while. If they are worn, shop for new tires before your trip. Make sure they are pumped up, too. Under-inflated tires can not only cost you fuel efficiency but also run a greater risk of shredding on the road. The official U.S. Fuel Economy website estimates that getting a tune-up increases fuel economy an average 4 percent, and properly inflating your tires can increase it by more than 3 percent. Not running the air-conditioner at full blast the entire trip can make a huge difference, as well.
Properly planning what to bring on your trip can make a huge difference in your impact on the environment. For example, by bringing your own fruit and refillable water bottles on the trip, you can cut down on the packaging waste that comes from having to stop at convenience stores, truck stops, and fast food restaurants. By not idling your car in the line at the drive thru window, you help cut down on smog and pollution as well; The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that idling for just 10 minutes creates a pound of carbon dioxide. Besides, wouldn’t you rather eat from local growers and producers along the way than eat just another chain fast food restaurant hamburger?
Finally, plan a route before you head out. While road trips are often all about spontaneity, a little planning can go a long way in cutting down on the amount of time you spend in traffic. If you just can’t resist seeing the off-the-highway animatronic dinosaur museum in the middle of the desert, go for it, but remember to think of what that might mean for your planned route and travel time – not even dinosaurs are worth getting stuck in a Los Angeles rush hour.