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5 Simple Ways to Be a Sustainable Road Tripper

Road trips provide us with the freedom to travel slowly, to learn about different cultures, and to discover a variety of natural landscapes on our own time. These experiences are undoubtedly profound, yet they generate a lot of waste in our ecosystem. These simple tips will help you save money, reduce waste, and support local businesses without a lot of extra effort.

Saving starts at home:

Energy savers: Before you head out on your trip, consider adjusting the thermostat and closing window shades to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. In addition to turning lights off, unplug appliances. These small yet important actions will reduce energy usage and your electricity bill while you are away.

Revisit your shopping list: Buying patterns will change the week before your road trip. Modify the quantity of perishable items in your shopping list, and consider buying snacks like nuts, granola, and dried fruit in bulk using a glass jar rather than a plastic bag from the store. Evaluate food in the fridge and freeze items that may expire or use them for lunches or snacks on the road. Place them in reusable containers for easy access on the go.

Pack like an eco-pro:

Packing in a way that is efficient and light not only helps with your fuel economy, but it also reduces waste throughout your trip. Consider the bonus points: you use everything you packed!

Use reusable items for your luggage: Fill travel bottles with your favorite hair and skin products. The compact size saves space and weight in your luggage. Organize clothes, shoes, and other accessories in reusable bags so your belongings are easy to find.

the open road travel guide on a canvas bag
Bring reusable containers and bags with you when you travel. Photo © Sophia Hyder Hock.

Use reusable items for snacks and meals: Hydrate and caffeinate on the road with reusable bottles. Purchasing a set of reusable plates, silverware, and straws are another way to minimize waste. Not only are they light and compact, they can be used anywhere. Pack perishable food and beverages in a portable cooler with reusable ice packs to ensure items are fresh and safe for consumption.

Prepare your car:

Preventative maintenance: Make time to check the oil and tire pressure prior to your trip. These checkups provide a sense of safety and increase fuel efficiency.

On the road: Excessive acceleration minimizes fuel economy; use cruise control to regulate the speed. If the climate is right, open windows and enjoy the fresh air. These tips not only save on fuel and preserve the condition of your car, they help you slow down to enjoy your experience.

Support local when possible:

Seek locally-owned restaurants, markets, or fruit stands and have a picnic with your locally purchased items. Place any leftovers in your cooler for a delicious snack on the road. If fast food is the only option, ask to minimize extra packaging when placing the order.

young boy next to a recycling bin
Pay attention to the labels on your trash or recycling items to ensure they are disposed of properly. Photo © Sophia Hyder Hock.

Environmental considerations:

Create memories instead of extra waste: Road trips are a great opportunity to experience and appreciate nature and the sacred lands of this country. Consider the Leave No Trace Principles on hikes, walks, and pit stops.

Pay attention to the labels on your trash or recycling items to ensure they are disposed of properly. If receptacles are not immediately available, collect the garbage in one place until it can be placed in the right location. This may entail placing garbage in your vehicle until a proper disposal is found, but it will be well worth the trip.


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About the Author

Sophia Hyder Hock is the Founder and CEO of Papilia, a company committed to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices for destinations, travel organizations, and content creators. She integrates human-centered design methodologies to empower her clients to be sustainable thinkers and travelers through a greater understanding of diverse perspectives, mindful leadership principles, and communication styles.

As an international yoga instructor and yoga life coach, Sophia incorporates wellness ideologies into all her projects as a holistic way to inspire people to be their best self through life’s many challenges. Her love for travel started at the age of 10 when she moved from California to Sri Lanka. Since then, Sophia has been to 35+ countries and plans to inspire her toddler to be a citizen of the world through mindful travel and learning about his Bengali-American heritage.

Learn more about Sophia on her personal website and Instagram.


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