I recently returned from a trip to Chicago for a couple days of vacation in a big city.
I love traveling to fun and new places, but whenever I travel, I'm always concerned about how much of a carbon footprint I'm generating with all my extra driving and other travel behaviors.
I've found some ways to keep my carbon footprint as low as possible when I'm traveling, and I'm going to share some of my favorites with you.
Drive the speed limit. The slower you travel on high-speed interstates, the better your fuel mileage and the less gasoline you burn to get where you're going. It'll make your trip lighter on your wallet, too.
Use cruise control. Cruise control helps keep acceleration to a minimum by keeping you at the same speed continuously. Your engine is less efficient when you're accelerating than when you're traveling at a constant rate of speed, so using cruise control can help you save MPGs.
Bring reusable cups and mugs and refill at gas stations and rest areas. This way, you avoid using unnecessary disposable cups made of plastic or styrofoam. And you can fill your cups up at home when you start your trip, so you're set to make good time on your first leg.
If a train or bus trip is an alternative to taking a passenger vehicle, it might be a more environmentally option for your trip. Trains and buses use way less fuel per passenger than passenger vehicles.
If you're going to take a passenger vehicle, consider renting a fuel-efficient car like a Toyota Prius for the trip. If your own car is older or unreliable, a rental might make the trip more enjoyable and less trouble-prone. And if your own car gets less than 20 miles per gallon, you can save a substantial chunk of your rental cost in gas.
Plan your trip and know your route ahead of time. If you know where you're going, you can plan stops ahead of time to take care of multiple needs at the same time, like food, gas and bathroom breaks. Preventing yourself from getting lost also makes the trip more enjoyable and avoids burning gasoline while you search for the turn you missed.
Pack a cooler of food for the trip, including food for snacks and meals. This helps you avoid unnecessary stops and get where you're going. It also helps you avoid generating trash from fast food stops and purchasing food at chain restaurants that have had ingredients shipped in from across the country.
Use public transportation inside big cities. This will save you some time trying to figure out a big city's roads, save you fuel costs compared to most cities' relatively inexpensive metro or bus passes, and save you mental sanity when you don't have to deal with road rage. Just like buses and trains that you can use to get to the city, buses and trains in the city use much less fuel per passenger than cars and taxis.
Use your hotel's housekeeping services as little as possible. I sleep on my own sheets at home for more than one night, and I don't need my towels swapped out every day either. It's wasteful for the hotel to give me 100-percent clean linens every day, so I like to use my "Do Not Disturb" door hanger for at least one day. That way, the cleaning staff will leave my room alone and let me use the same linens again. Many hotels also offer green housekeeping options, where housekeeping staff only take away towels that have been thrown on the floor or don't remake your bed if you leave a special card on it. I always take advantage of these options whenever they're available.
Amanda's Animal Fact of the Week
European white storks often return to use the same nest year after year, making it bigger each time. Older nests can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. (This week's animal fact was courtesy of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago)