The Great (Green) American Road Trip
By Kevin Pink, Customer Service & Marketing Assistant
It’s that time of year… School is getting out for the summer, families are loading up the cars, and the roads are soon to be packed with drivers participating in that grand American tradition: the road trip. Whether you’re crossing the continent, the country, or just the town line, we’ve got some tips to make your trip more environmentally friendly- and you may save some money, too!
Plan your route. Plan ahead to make sure you’re taking the most efficient route. GPS and online mapping are ideal for this stage of the process. Also consider traffic and time your travel accordingly. For example, rush hour on a weekday might not be the best time to leave; try getting an early start to beat traffic. You’ll save gas (and money) by avoiding traffic jams.
Travel light. It’s no secret that when your car is lighter, it takes less gas to move it. Take anything you won’t need out of your trunk for the duration of your trip. When it comes to your luggage, take only what you think you’ll need and leave the rest of the closet at home. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that an extra 100lbs in your car can result in a two percent reduction in fuel efficiency. Two percent may not seem like a lot, but over a long trip, it adds up. Drop that extra weight; you’ll put less carbon into the atmosphere and have to fill your gas tank less often!
Tune up! In addition to keeping you from breaking down on the highway, a tune-up before the trip could boost your fuel efficiency. Maintenance that you can do yourself (including changing your motor oil, replacing your air filter, and making sure your tires are properly-inflated) makes a difference, lowering your carbon emissions and potentially saving you some money. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that changing your air filter can save up to 10% of your carbon emissions; inflating your tires appropriately and using the correct type of engine oil can net you another 5% reduction in carbon emissions. Take the short amount of time to know that you won’t break down and your emissions are lower!
Take it slow. According to the Department of Energy, aggressive driving can lower your gas mileage by 33% on the highway. Ease off the accelerator, pay attention to the speed limit, and try to avoid excessive acceleration and braking. Additionally, gas mileage generally decreases at speeds above 50 mph, with every additional 5mph costing you approximately 16 cents more per gallon. Remember to let gravity do the work for you when heading down a hill, as well!
Cruise Control. Make judicious use of cruise control. On long, flat surfaces, cruise control keeps your car moving efficiently, using less fuel by maintaining a constant speed. If your vehicle has cruise control, use it regularly; just make sure to stay awake and aware at all times.
Windows vs. AC. This is a longstanding debate, but the Union of Concerned Scientists has examined multiple studies and determined that rolling your windows down is more efficient than closing them and running your air conditioner. Additionally, if your car has been sitting in the sun, opening the windows so air can move through the cabin will cool the car faster than using air conditioning- so roll those windows down!
Stay green. There is a rapidly-expanding segment of the lodging industry focused on sustainability. Green hotels take steps to reduce their environmental impact through energy-efficiency measures (using more efficient lighting and appliances, requesting that guests reuse towels during their stay) and waste-reduction measures (recycling and composting, donating guest room soap and shampoo). For more information about green lodging, check out this Environmental Protection Agency page.
Eat local. Did you really travel all that way to eat in a chain restaurant? Enjoy the local fare by eating at independent restaurants, especially if they use local ingredients. Your food will have traveled a shorter distance to get to you, lowering its carbon footprint, and you’ll be able to enjoy the local cuisine!
When in Rome… do as the Romans do! Obviously you’re not taking a car trip to Rome, but once you reach your destination, travel as the locals do. If there’s a site you can’t walk to or bike to, hop on a bus for a travel experience with a much lower per-person rate of carbon emission than your car. You’ll be able to concentrate on the scenery if you’re not always paying attention to traffic, and get to meet some of the people who live in the place you have chosen to visit- you may even learn about some hidden gem of a restaurant or hiking trail!
Have a wonderful and safe great (green) American road trip!