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How to Make Your Road Trip Eco-Friendly?



A road trip is a great way to spend a vacation. Road trips are generally inexpensive, entertaining and sociable, as they give you plenty of time to make stronger bonds with your fellow travelers. When you’re planning everything that needs to be done before and during the trip, it’s easy to forget about environmental issues. Patricia Dimick writes.

Although we might not be aware of it, road trips and the environment are intertwined. As you consider what to pack, your driving route and your vehicle’s fuel economy, consider making some extra efforts to reduce your carbon footprint and care for nature.

Pack Mindfully

Consider your travel mates, the duration of your trip, your destination and its weather conditions and then make a careful list of what you’ll really need for your trip. Remove all the unnecessary items from you list and get any unneeded items out of your vehicle. The extra weight of clutter has a negative impact on your car’s fuel economy. Also try to avoid using a rooftop cargo carrier, as its weight and shape lower your car’s fuel efficiency, even if the carrier is empty.

Plan Ahead

When you choose a destination, map out the route before leaving home. Find the quickest route to save on money, lower fuel use and minimize your carbon footprint. The U.S. Environmental Protection agency states that emissions from U.S. vehicles increased by 2.0 percent from 2012 to 2013.

One of the main causes was the increase in miles traveled on the road. Plan your pit stops strategically too. Do some Internet research to find farmer’s markets or shops along the way where you can stop for lunch, take a break and go for a walk to stretch your legs. Setting out on foot lets you explore the local community and enjoy local treasures. Pack some travel friendly and healthy food like nuts, dried and fresh fruits and granola that don’t require refrigeration. Keep your snacks in reusable containers. Try filling reusable travel bottles with water to avoid the waste produced by disposable plastic water bottles. These strategies help you avoid extra stops at the convenience store and you won’t have to buy any individually wrapped snacks that have wasteful packaging.

Check Your Vehicle

An ideal vehicle for an eco-friendly road trip would be an electric or hybrid car. Their fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness produce lower harmful emissions and some produce no pollutants whatsoever. Many rental car services offer hybrid models, so even if you don’t own one yourself, you can still enjoy their benefits. No matter what kind of a vehicle you’re traveling in, there are certain things you can do that will minimize the amount of damage your trip causes to the environment.

A thorough tune-up before you leave helps increase the car’s fuel efficiency and prolongs its lifespan. Getting your car serviced before you hit the road also helps prevent small malfunctions that negatively impact your fuel economy. For example, a blocked air filter lowers fuel economy by 20 percent. Improperly inflated tires can lower mileage by 0.4 percent for each PSI (pound per square inch) drop in pressure of all four tires, as the tires and road have too much tension between them. Under inflated tires also wear out faster and make your car more difficult to handle. Improperly inflated tires also lead to increased greenhouse emissions and air pollution.

Your Driving Style and Habits

Your driving style and habits, such as abrupt braking, hitting the gas and accelerating rapidly increase your carbon footprint. Whenever you’re stopped for more than 2 minutes, turn off your car’s engine. Idling also uses gas and there is no sudden surge of emissions when your car’s engine starts up. Use the cruise control feature as much as you can, as maintaining a steady rate of speed helps your car use gasoline more efficiently.

The vehicle’s cooling system is also a major contributor to global warming. The air conditioner uses a lot of fuel to function and pumps out hot air into the local atmosphere, where it creates heat zones that lead to abnormal weather patterns. Because most automobile air conditioners still rely upon hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, these effects are greater than what your home’s more environmentally friendly air conditioning system does. The emissions from your car’s air conditioner have more powerful greenhouse effects due to the ozone depleting chemicals and the carbon dioxide it releases.

When you can, drive with the windows closed, as this lowers drag on the car. Act strategically based upon the outdoor temperature. If it’s warm, try to park in the shade and open your windows during your pit stops. Avoid using the car’s heater unless it’s absolutely needed. When you do use it, only turn it on for short periods of time. Try out car covers or even tarps to protect your car overnight. You could also have a solar powered fan installed inside your vehicle. These don’t use electricity or fuel and they can help eliminate heat buildup and provide good air circulation even with the windows closed. The on-board gadgets like navigational systems, touch screens or Wi-Fi connections also consume fuel and are a drain on your car’s battery.

Traveling in your own car on a road trip is one of the most comfortable and enjoyable ways to explore the world. You get to set the schedule, locations, pit stops and detours along the way, giving you freedom and independence. While enjoying yourself on the road, it’s important to keep the environment in mind because all the cars and trucks on the roads make a considerable impact on pollution and climate change. Today’s automobile manufacturers are also becoming more environmentally conscious, making it easier for you to make environmentally friendly choices, adding up to those of other individuals.

BIO: Patricia Dimick is a Denver-based freelance writer and a stay-at-home mother. As a passionate green living advocate, she enjoys exploring and writing about anything eco-friendly related, whether in theory or from her own experience. Photo: Image credit to Jon on Flickr

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