As the holiday season ramps up, more people hit the road to visit family and friends. Unfortunately, road travel can have a big impact on the environment. There are steps you can take to help reduce your carbon footprint while still enjoying a holiday road trip. Check out these six eco-friendly travel tips for your next holiday drive.
1. Ready the House for Your Absence
There is a lot you can do before you leave home that can help reduce the impact of your travel. While your home is unoccupied, there’s not much reason to keep lights running or the heater turned up. Set your heater to the lowest setting without having to fear your pipes freezing.
Turn off all lights before you head out the door as well. Using smart home technology like smart plugs and light bulbs could allow you to control your lights from your phone without being physically at home. Try setting sporadic timers for your lights to help deter invaders. Instead of leaving lights on, ask a neighbor to stop in occasionally or park their vehicle in your driveway for a few hours each day.
Another way to decrease energy consumption while you’re gone is to unplug your electric appliances and electronics. Most electronics use energy when plugged in, even if they’re turned off. Unplug the TV, coffee maker and microwave as you leave the house.
2. Choose an Eco-Friendly Car
Electric vehicles are becoming more popular. As their popularity increases, so will the ability to take an electric vehicle on a long road trip with plenty of charging stations. Even if you don’t have access to a fully electric vehicle, there are many hybrid options available. If you don’t have an electric or hybrid car and don’t plan to buy a new car soon, you can always choose to rent an eco-friendly vehicle for your trip.
Do you live near family members who will also be making the drive to your holiday gathering? Consider carpooling to save gas, expenses and the environmental impact. You will probably need a bigger vehicle than if you were only traveling with your family, but the consumption of one larger vehicle is usually less than two smaller ones.
3. Get a Vehicle Check Before Hitting the Road
Get a car tune-up before you head out for a long drive over the holidays. There are plenty of moving parts in your vehicle that can cause it to run less efficiently if not in good working order. Things like a dirty air filter can easily reduce your car’s mileage and cause it to run less efficiently. Visit a trusted mechanic to make sure your vehicle is in good condition and ready for a road trip.
It’s also a good idea to check your car insurance
before you head out the door for your trip. Make sure you have the right amount of coverage in place to help keep you safe on the road. You may also want to consider adding roadside assistance in case something goes wrong while driving.
4. Reduce Gifts and Pack Lightly
There are a lot of environmental reasons to reduce the number of gifts you give this holiday season. Many gifts, like plastic children’s toys or mass-produced clothing items, aren’t environmentally friendly. Even if you choose eco-conscious gifts, the delivery and packaging of your items can cause a lot of environmental harm. Consider a one-gift-per-person policy this holiday season. For the gifts, make an effort to choose recycled packaging products.
With fewer gifts to carry, your car won’t have as much weight. This helps your vehicle run at its best and increases your mileage. You can further help lighten the load of your vehicle by packing light. Limit how many clothing items each family member can bring on the trip so no one overloads their suitcase. You can also pack family sizes of items you may usually pack individually. For example, bring one bag with all of the family’s toiletries like shampoo or toothpaste instead of individual sizes for each person.
5. Make Smart Choices on the Road
Plan your route before you hit the road to help you pick the shortest available journey to your destination. Planning your trip ahead of time also lets you choose the right times to be on the road. Try to plan your driving hours when there is less traffic so your car runs more efficiently.
Once you’re on the road, continue to reduce your emissions by turning your vehicle off when safe to do so. For example, if you are at a pit stop waiting for a family member to finish using the restroom, an idling car can waste a lot of fuel in a short amount of time. Cars used to be less efficient and would cause a large number of emissions each time they were started. Most modern cars, however, are much more efficient today and start cleaner than ever.
6. Bring Reusable Water Bottles and Snack Packaging
Stopping for snacks and drinks on your journey is a classic part of any road trip. Each stop with a new bottle of water or a plastic drink cup leads to a buildup of non-reusable plastic. Reduce your contributions to single-use plastic with reusable water bottles and food containers. Most convenience stores will allow you to fill a water bottle with a fountain drink or water instead of using the plastic or foam cups offered.
Purchase snacks that come in recyclable packing or purchase in bulk and store them in your personal containers. For example, you can get a bulk size of trail mix before the trip. Now you won’t need to buy individual bags of snacks each time you stop on the road.