At the start of this self-proclaimed ethical travel series, I mentioned an epic road trip that my husband and I took last year. Long story short, we were on the road for one month, visited 10 national parks and lots of friends and family along the way.
Then last week, after a lot of talk and not nearly as much planning as I would have preferred, my husband and I hit the road for another month of exploring this great country of ours. Epic Road Trip 2.0, here we come.
It probably goes without saying that I am absolutely attempting to follow my own advice in terms of tips to reduce the impact of our mode of transportation — for the record we are driving, but extending our stays at our destinations, and I promise I won’t have a lead foot; choosing better options when we decide where we stay — mostly camping and crashing with family and friends (again, this is mainly due to the fact that we’re cheap, but also tends to be more eco-friendly); and reducing our footprint by packing light and smart — we are taking much less in terms of clothes and gear this year, but perhaps more when it comes to food (more on that later).
And despite the above mentioned lack of planning that has left me slightly uncomfortable, one thing I was pretty adamant about planning was how to reduce our impact while we were literally on the road.
We’re following the below easy tips for greener travel while we’re on the road, and you can do the same whether you’re hitting the freeways (I prefer blue highways, for the record) or taking off from the airport.
Cut Down On Plastic
We all know how I feel about plastic. But it gets pretty hard to avoid the stuff when you’re traveling. One big culprit is all of the to-go containers. Whether it’s a disposable plastic water bottle, your coffee cup lid, that fruit cup or a pre-made salad or sandwich, chances are that to-go container is made from plastic.
Instead of buying single use items, bring reusable containers. Now, I’m a little bit of a hydration freak, and for some odd reason this is doubly true when I’m travelling. On this trip my husband and I packed four large reusable water bottles. The old Kyle used to consistently bought water at the airport or each gas station along my route. And while these were usually the largest water bottles you could buy, they were definitely not ideal. So instead of being like the old Kyle, be like the new Kyle and bring your own reusable water bottle. You can refill it at a drinking fountain at the airport, and on the road you can do the same at a gas station or fill up at their soda machine. Added bonus, you’ll also be saving money as you won’t be buying a bunch of overpriced water at the airport gift shop.
Similarly, bring a reusable coffee mug and nix that plastic lid (and maybe even cup in some cases). And instead of buying other snacks in plastic containers, look for things that come in paper or cardboard instead.
Think Before You Eat
Food can actually pose one of the biggest travel-related challenges, and this is especially while you’re on the road or at the airport, as your options can get real limited real quick,. But just a little bit of planning can go a long way. The biggest thing you’re gonna want to try avoid are ready-made options (see notes about plastic above), and most travel-size packs.
Bringing your own snacks is a great way to reduce wasteful packaging, you’re probably going to end up with healthier and tastier food options, and save some dough while you’re at it. One of my main goals on this trip was to avoid fast food at all costs. That’s why prior to our trip we stocked up on nuts, pretzels, crackers, fruits and veggies that would all be easily snackable items while on the road. We made some ranch dressing and put it in a mason jar for easy dipping, as well as some hard boiled eggs for protein and some bomb.com zucchini breakfast cookies to satisfy our sweet tooth. We also brought along bread and some PB&J to make sandwiches in a pinch and some cold brew coffee to keep us awake on some of those long and lonely roads.
Filling reusable containers at home not only helps you avoid buying snacks with tons of packaging, but it also saves money and those containers can come in pretty handy on your trip (I mean, you never know when you’re gonna need a mason jar on the road, amirite?).
Another thing you can do, especially if you’re on a road trip is shop at local stores or even find a local farmer’s market along your route. If you have to shop at a larger chain grocery store (or even gas station), look for locally/regionally grown produce and other locally made items. You’d be surprised at what a lot of gas stations carry in terms of locally made snacks, all you have to do is be on the lookout.
Similarly, try to eat at local restaurants. Not only are you probably going to get better food than you would at a fast food joint or other chain, but it’s also a great way to support the local community along the way.
Watch Your Trash
This is kind of a no-brainer, but it can be harder than it seems in a lot of places. So number one, definitely don’t litter while you’re traveling. Just don’t do it. If you have to pack your trash a little bit further, do it (P.S. I know some reusable containers that come in handy for packing extra trash).
This is extra true for recycling. Recycle everything you possibly can. Which means you might have to take your recycling with you and dispose of it at another place. And because some places you visit will have different rules for disposal, and even what can and cannot be recycled, make yourself aware of the local rules on your trip.
So that’s it, that’s all I’ve got. Pretty simple, but can make a big impact. What are some of your favorite green travel tips when you’re en route?