green road trip tips

Ah, summer! The season of barbecues, picnics, camping, delicious fresh fruit and summertime adventures. One of my favorite things to do through the summer is take a road trip with family, friends and sometimes even a short solo journey. I find that road trips make for a relatively cheap and easy holiday option, allowing one to explore the interiors of a particular area and marvel at the beauty that summertime brings. Last year, I spent my summer in the Pacific Northwest, and the number of road trips I took increased exponentially. Sometime in the midst of summer and considering how much I was getting out onto the road, I decided that it was only fair to go about my little adventures in a more environmentally responsible manner a green road trip, if you will.

Green road trip tips, for all seasons

green road trip group
These green road trip tips will keep your next summer road trip as eco-friendly as it is enjoyable. Photo: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

I’ve always been a pretty accountable and cautious person by nature, so I researched ways in which to make my journeys more “green” and lessen their impact (directly and indirectly) on the beautiful surroundings I often cruised through. Today, I’m going to share with you some green road trip tips to keep your next summer road trip as eco-friendly as it is enjoyable.

The Car

Arguably, one of the best ways to keep your trip green is to maximize fuel efficiency. Before embarking on a long journey, make sure your car is fully tuned up. Sometimes overlooked factors, such as your tires not being fully inflated, can reduce fuel efficiency by a significant amount (not to mention, they make driving dangerous). Making sure your car is well maintained and suited for a road trip is vital, as a car in shape will retain its efficiency for a long period of time. More importantly, a well-maintained car aids safety, and safe driving practices are critical for long drives.

If you are renting a car for your trip, then consider renting one that is fuel efficient. I’ve rented cars for longer journeys in the past, and trust me when I say it’s worth paying a little extra to get a vehicle with higher fuel efficiency.

The Load

green road trip tips
Green road trip tip: avoid packing heavy and bulky items unless absolutely necessary. Photo: Youproduction / Shutterstock

Pack only as much as you need. Avoid packing heavy and bulky items unless absolutely necessary, and be sure to empty out your trunk of any items you’ve been storing in there that you won’t need for your summer road trip. Keeping your weight to a minimum will reduce the amount of gas consumed and also save you some money over time. I recently learned that keeping things on the roof of your car can reduce efficiency up to 25 percent! Apparently, bike racks and luggage carriers will interfere with efficiency even when empty, as they disrupt the aerodynamics of the car.

The Drive

Planning your route in advance will help you save fuel, as opposed to spontaneously “going where the road takes you.” In terms of the drive itself, here are some easy-to-follow steps that really do make a big difference in staying environmentally friendly:

  • When possible, opt for cruise control, as this is much better than constantly accelerating and braking.
  • Don’t idle! I remember driving to Seattle once, and seeing a “Stop Idling” sign at this large intersection. Even though the sign was very visible, most drivers were, in fact, idling. Idling is tempting, but in reality consumes a lot of gas in a small amount of time.
  • Use as little air-conditioning as possible. I find this quite hard to do, especially during the peak of summer, but it’s worth a try during cooler evenings or while driving through long shaded areas.

The Activities

Apart from the journey itself, the activities you engage in throughout your road trip also contribute to the carbon footprint you leave behind. In terms of food, try to eat local. Consider frequenting farmers’ markets or eating at local sustainable restaurants. Not only will you be helping the environment, but you’ll get to truly immerse yourself in your new surroundings and get an insider’s perspective. Packing low-carbon snack alternatives in reusable containers is a great way to stay healthy and also reduce waste.

A nice way to see some sights you might otherwise miss is to throw walking and hiking into your road trip. This saves fuel and is a fun activity to change things up during a road trip. Instead of using electronic devices to keep your mind occupied during those longer and bleaker drives, or during long pit stops, try playing a game or two or interact with fellow travelers. I’ve met some really interesting people at rest stops, and I’ve found that exchanging stories over a meal with fellow road-trippers is so much more fulfilling than staring at a screen. Even though it doesn’t seem like much, you’ll be saving some electricity and reducing your personal impact on your surroundings. And who knows you might even enjoy doing it!

So the next time you’re planning a road trip, think about including these green road trip practices into your journey. After all, half the enjoyment a road trip brings comes from the beauty of the environments we drive through — so it only makes sense that we do our part in preserving its splendor.

Feature image credit: MNStudio / Shutterstock

By Akshata Mehta

Akshata majored in international political economy and English literature and has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. Her interests include entrepreneurship and sustainability. Occasionally, she writes about not-so-serious stuff and her daily doings on her blog here.