Smarter Living: Getting About

road

Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Summer is the season for good times and the open road, but unfortunately it is often accompanied by a trail of fast-food wrappers and carbon emissions. To design a healthy road trip that ditches the carbon footprint, take these steps to make your getaway a green one.

What to Eat

When hunger strikes, don’t assume fast food is the only option. Start your trip with a cooler of fresh fruits and vegetables and a stash of your favorite cereals and crackers; that way, you’ll be less inclined to pull over for french fries between meals. Along the way, research nearby farmers' markets and locally provisioned restaurants (find them at localharvest.org) where you can stop to dine and to replenish your supplies.

Bring your own utensils, dishes and food containers to save the resources and energy required to produce disposables and to reduce waste. Handkerchiefs make great reusable napkins for the car. 

How to Get There

Rent a hybrid or biodiesel car—your mileage will soar and your fuel costs and carbon emissions will shrink. No matter what you drive, regularly check your tires to make sure they are properly inflated, which can improve your fuel economy by 3.3 percent.

Try forgetting the car altogether. Bikes, buses and trains can get you almost anywhere. See railstotrails.org and Simple Steps’ Car-Free Getaways for some ideas for a car-free trip.

Where to Stay

Camping out is the greenest option; it also gives you the opportunity to teach your children about the outdoors and to explore [subscribe_form|class=left]our country’s most protected green spaces. Local, state and national parks offer campsites as well as backcountry camping. Some of the most popular spots can be fully booked weeks ahead of time, and some parks permit only a very limited number of campers in order to preserve the natural surroundings. So reserve space early via recreation.gov and reserveamerica.com.

Green hotels are no longer limited to expensive, remote eco-lodges. Use istaygreen.org to find green hotels all over the world. Or when choosing hotels, ask about their recycling and water-saving cleaning programs.

Emergency Essentials

Maximize your battery use by bringing along a solar-powered charger (you can find them at solio.com) for your cell phone and electronics, which you can place on the dash of the car as you go. Also consider LED roadside flares (niteize.com).

There is even an eco-friendly nationwide auto club for roadside aid. The Better World Club assists both cars and bicycles and can provide eco-travel tips and discounts on hybrid rentals. The group donates 1 percent of its annual revenue to environmental cleanup and advocacy.

For Outdoor Protection

When it comes to sunscreen, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the least harmful to the environment and to your health, because they consist of minerals that block the sun from reaching your skin, rather than chemicals that absorb UV rays. But if you’re opposed to a lifeguard’s nose, try less-toxic sunscreen brands like Avalon Organics and Burt’s Bees

Insects may be pesky, but DEET is much worse. Unless you’re traveling to a place where insect-borne diseases are a serious threat, choose DEET alternatives based on essential oils or least-toxic chemicals such as picaridin. Some products include USDA Organic Badger Anti-Bug Balm and other herbal repellents; the CDC recommends oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Learn More

Get Out of Your Car and Get Away

Seven Eco-Friendly Travel Destinations in the U.S.

How Can I Get Better Mileage Out of My Old Car?

last revised 8/22/2011

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