As the school year wraps up many families are anxiously awaiting summer vacation. Whether you go on a day trip or long road trip, there are many ways to improve summer road trips – both for your wallet and the planet. Minor changes in how you prepare, and small tweaks to what you do while you’re travelling, can add up to a more positive experience.
No matter where and how long you plan to travel be sure to pack light. Decreasing the weight of the load for vehicles typically improves fuel efficiency and can save on fuel costs in the long run. Pack light by only taking the most essential items with you. Before you go pull out the calendar and note the activities you’ll be doing each day, then check the weather forecast and pack accordingly.
Avoid packing “just in case” items that will only add to the bulk of your load. If you end up needing an umbrella for example you can purchase it, or in some cases borrow it from the hotel where you’re staying. Instead of hauling large recreational equipment find out if you can rent or borrow it at your destination too. Planning ahead and being prepared for every possible circumstance only adds the weight of your load.
Select clothing from the same color family which can be mixed to create several outfits. Neutrals like black and tan, black and white, or blue and gray can look flattering and still allow for flexibility. Two bottoms, two to three pairs of shoes, and four to six tops should be sufficient for a week-long trip. Don’t be afraid to reuse some of the clothing, hand washing it or getting laundry service. Packing clothes in reusable packing cubes instead of plastic bags can help reduce waste and save room in your luggage.
If you have a pickup truck or a vehicle with a luggage rack secure your load to keep roads clean and safe. Before you get on the road inspect your vehicle to make sure loads are secured, covered, and properly tied down. Using a tarp or cargo netting to cover and secure items can be more effective than using straps alone. When you stop for fuel take the opportunity to check the load again to ensure that nothing has come undone while you were driving. Ask yourself if you would feel safe driving behind your vehicle.
Avoid littering the roads by keeping a trash bag inside your vehicle. Litter, trash in the wrong place, is preventable. Stash your trash then throw it away when you get to a rest area or final destination. Many rest areas now have recycling bins too, so be sure to look for signage indicating what can be recycled at each stop. Most will have bins for plastic bottles and aluminum beverage cans. Keep in mind that not all communities recycle the same things, follow directions on signage closely.
One way to reduce the amount of trash you may accumulate in your vehicle is to pack food and snacks in reusable containers that don’t need to be thrown away after just one use. Reduce the amount of trash you’re making during your trip by using reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic water bottles. Reusable shopping bags are an excellent alternative to plastic bags that can also do double duty by helping you carry everything from books and magazines to souvenirs.
While at your travel destination choose to support the community by eating locally grown foods. Whether you dine at a special restaurant or go shopping at a farmer’s market, locally sourced or locally grown foods travels a shorter distance compared to many foods sold in a grocery store. Less distance equals less fuel wasted and less pollution. Locally grown also means you’ll experience more of the local flavor that makes that particular destination unique.
At your vacation spot, choose to walk or ride a bicycle instead of driving. Both options are much more environmentally friendly, can cost less, and are a boost to your health. Riding a bicycle or simply walking gives you a much different perspective than quickly driving around the area. Take the opportunity to enjoy the sights, and you may discover a new favorite eatery or attraction you didn’t expect to find.
Liz Swafford is the Recycling and Education Program Coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Contact her at 706-278-5001, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.