Road Trip The Sustainable Way | Seventh Generation
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Road Trip The Sustainable Way

Author: abbybrooks

My family and I just returned from our summer vacation.  It involved a thirteen hour car ride from Virginia to Indiana. We've taken road trips in the past, and as I work to green my routine, I realized my efforts should extend to what happens after we pile into our car. I'm happy with the adjustments I made, and feel we left less of a mark on nature as we made our trek!

We started off by scrutinizing our route. We settled on two options: One had a quicker arrival time and higher speeds, the other fewer miles and lower speeds.  The difference wasn't substantial, but it did make me think about what was more important: less time in the car or using less gas? My husband and I chose the route with the lower carbon footprint -- a major concession when you are traveling with a 3-year-old.

The second change I made is one that has stuck even after the road trip -- I added a container to collect the recyclables we used while we were in the car. I've always had a car trash can, but never thought to collect the recyclables separately. It's made disposal much easier.

Finally, I spent quite a bit of time at home preparing snacks and meals to enjoy along the way.  This change offered several advantages -- it mean we ate healthier on the trip, and it produced less trash. I packed everything in reusable containers, so the only waste produced were the napkins (I recommend using 100% recycled paper towels from Seventh Generation).  While the food preparation took longer than stopping for fast food, the effort was well worth it. 

What tips do you have for saving resources on car trips?

photo: lautsu


at second glance picture
at second glance
Abby, it's great you are thinking about the impact on the environment of your car trips but I think you are missing the big picture when you focus on separating your recyclables in the car or choosing the shortest distance (on what is still a very long car trip). If you really want to use "sustainability" (the "S" word) in conjunction to car use, you probably can't take 13 hr car trips at all -- you need to minimize car trips of any sort dramatically and look to use the train for the big trips. Our train system is terrible I know but you can at least demand of our local,state,and federal officials to push for serious funding of our trains. You also need to look at what kind of car you drove -- I assume since you are daring to use the S word, you probably at least have a hybrid that gets over 50 mph (which still isn't a sustainable mode of travel), otherwise you are really missing the big picture. Of course, to move towards sustainability we all need to seriously consider taking our vacations near our homes as much as possible -- to hike and bicycle and to drive fewer miles every year. We really need to keep in mind how truly anti-S it is to even get in a car, let alone drive it for 13 hours. Keep in mind the terrible tragedy of what would happen to you, your husband, and dear child in a closed garage were you to only idle your car for just 5 minutes...then consider that the earth is really just a giant but closed garage and during your trip your car was fully revved up, going at high speeds, for 13 hrs! This is an example of why the "S" word within any context of driving a car is really quite inappropriate.
roxxy23 picture
We take cloth napkins and a larger cloth to cover picnic tables when we stop at rest stops. Sometimes we make easy travel food like peanut noodles and tofu, other times we buy locally-made packaged food from a co-op. Either way we eat better and save money. We also carry our own water bottles and bamboo silverware. There are actually some very nice stops between Washington, DC and St. Louis.
Pirogoeth picture
I actually just posted on my blog about being green at a fan convention. Basically it's involving bringing healthy snacks (like dried fruits and crackers) and liquids. I'm also lucky enough to have Klean Kanteens which will allow me to fill them up with ice cubes with no problem before we leave. But I'm also going to make an effort to drive appropriately (not speeding) to be at the optimal mpg for the car. My hubby on the other hand just goes with the traffic. Sadly he doesn't share my views, but he's at least willing to recycle and 'put up' with my greening around the house.
Becky picture
Bringing our own bottles. If you freeze several (up to 5 or six) it give you not only cold water to drink on the road, but they double as ice packs for coolers. By the time your heading home you still have cold water, and what you needed to keep cool is gone, and no waste!