It’s no secret that cars and trucks are responsible for a substantial amount of pollution. In fact, vehicles are the cause of one-fifth of the total of U.S. emissions. This amounts to roughly 24 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon of gas consumed.
If you’re concerned about your impact on the environment, you may wonder if a road trip is a responsible choice for summertime travel. The answer is: it depends.
1. Choose eco-friendly lodging
Part of the beauty of a road trip is the ability to plan ahead to choose the best locations, lodging and fun, with the ability to stay spontaneous and make plenty of stops along the way. Choose an area that you love and check with the Green Hotels Association to find member hotels and approved vendors.
Or save money and stay flexible with your plans by loading up your car with a tent and eco-friendly camping gear. Even major cities like New York City offer nearby camping for adventurous tourists.
Travelers who want upscale lodging options can choose to go glamping instead. The concept of glamorous camping combines the best of both worlds. Glamping typically includes a plush, spacious tent with permanent flooring and often has running water, electricity and comfortable beds.
2. Tune-up your car
If you don’t own a hybrid vehicle, consider renting or borrowing one for your road trip. A hybrid electric vehicle can significantly reduce your emissions by as much as half, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
If a traditional car is your only option, getting a tune-up can actually make your trip more eco-friendly and efficient. A dirty air filter can reduce your car’s fuel efficiency by 20 percent, TerraPass reports. Get your oil changed, switch out your interior lights to LED options and replace your tires as soon as they show signs of excessive wear.
The EPA warns that under-inflated tires can not only increase wear and tear, but reduce your fuel economy by up to three percent. In turn, this can all lead to increased emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants.
3. Simplify your fun
A summer road trip is often entertainment enough, but kids in tow can change the equation. And even if adults are the only ones in the car, a trip cross-country can start feeling tedious by the fifth day in the car. Plan for lots of stops at roadside attractions, go on a hike or find local events as you pass through cities. The idea is to keep things loose and simple and rely on what nature currently offers. Plan for a day at a national park, look for a waterfall for a swim or drive out of your way to go cave exploring. You may find a hike through a dark cave is more thrilling than a nearby amusement park.
4. Slow down and travel light
Just because you can fit extra gear, suitcases and creature comforts in your car doesn’t mean you should. Removing an extra 100 pounds from your vehicle could reduce your miles per gallon by around one percent. Meanwhile, idling can burn up to a half gallon of fuel per hour. But how fast you drive can also dramatically impact your fuel efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, rapid acceleration and braking, as well as speeding, is an inefficient use of fuel and can decrease your overall fuel economy by as much as 33 percent when driving at highway speeds.