Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Sandy Bottoms: It’s hard, but not impossible, to make road trip a little more earth-friendly
Sometimes, it’s good to be spontaneous. So you can imagine my excitement when a friend called me last week to ask if I know anyone who might be willing to ride out to Colorado Springs with her for a few days. Yes, Kate. Yes I do. She and I will be hitting the road this weekend.
In addition to taking in the scenery and enjoying hours of conversation while we travel, we will also be conscious of making our road trip a little greener. While it’s inherently difficult to be green while burning gasoline, there are still plenty of things you can do to make your summer road trip more earth-friendly.
A greener road trip starts at home. Take a few minutes to prepare your space for your absence. Adjust the thermostat, close the blinds, unplug minor appliances and shut off your water heater. If home security is a concern, invest in a timer to turn lights on in the evenings while you’re away rather than leaving them on day and night for the duration of your trip.
Preparation is important for your car as well as your home. Clean out your car before you leave – bringing unnecessary clutter on a road trip means less space for you and the things you actually need. Plus, the added weight can affect your gas mileage. And give your car a little TLC before you hit the highway; make sure you’re using the recommended type of oil for your vehicle, get a tune-up if needed and check your tire pressure. If you’re due for an oil change, consider using oil with some recycled content.
Now, we’ve come to packing. This is my second-least favorite thing about traveling. Can you guess my least favorite? If you guessed unpacking, you win. You can keep your road trip as green as possible by packing light. That extra pair of shoes you “might” wear or that extra novel that you “might” read can really add up in the poundage department. As we discussed before, a lighter load means better fuel efficiency.
Something that you should bring, though, is your reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug. It would be embarrassing for me to tell you how much coffee I can consume in the course of 1,200 miles, so let’s just say that bringing a mug along on my trip will save a lot of single-use cups from the landfill. Oh, and bring some snacks. You know you’re going to get hungry, and an apple or a homemade peanut butter sandwich will create less waste than a bag of chips or a candy bar.
It’s not all about preparation. Once you’ve set off on your journey, you can still reduce your impact. Use your smart phone to navigate, and avoid printing maps. Maximize fuel efficiency by avoiding routes with tolls if possible, slowing down a bit and minimizing the number of stops you make. If you stop for nourishment, shut off the engine and get out of the car instead of using a drive through. If your car is idling then you’re getting zero MPGs, and you could use a stretch anyway.
Consider camping while on the road. It’s cheaper than a hotel, and you’ll use fewer resources by spending a night without creature comforts such as air conditioning and television. If you must purchase beverages, hold onto the cans or bottles until an opportunity to recycle presents itself.
And please, please don’t litter. There’s enough to see out there on the highway without adding fast food bags and coffee cups to the mix.
Sandy Bottoms joined Bluegrass PRIDE in 2011 in the role of Grants Administrator. She is originally from Mt. Washington and holds a bachelor’s in geography from the University of Kentucky, as well as a master’s in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia. Contact Sandy at email@example.com.
You might also be interested in Ally Ringer: Living downtown is practical fun reduces carbon footprint and expenses.