How to make your road trip sustainable ?

sustainable tips for a road trip

Feel like hitting the road and exploring your country  in complete freedom this year? Road trips reflect an image of freedom and escape, and allow you to travel without constraints.

However, as an eco-conscious traveller, the question of respect for the environment sometimes arises when you think of heading out on a road trip.

In this article, we give you some useful tips to adopt to make your road trip eco-friendly and sustainable.

1. Make sure you’re good to go

limit carbon on your road trip

Our travel modes are an important part of our carbon footprint. For a road trip, the basics to get off to a good start is to make sure your van or car is good to go.

A well-maintained vehicle uses less energy. Inflated tires, as well as brake pads and shock absorbers in good condition limit fuel consumption.

Also consider carpooling by offering other travellers to share parts of the journey.

Going further: Plan your route ahead of time to avoid driving too many miles. Use logic to get to the places you want to go by taking the shortest routes. Analyze the maps of the region to prepare for each stage.

2. Go slow on site

ecofriendly road trip

During your stopovers, to visit a particular region, find out about public transit systems.

Buses are often free of charge in the summer by the sea to serve the beaches. You can take advantage of this to get around while limiting your impact on the environment.

Rental of classic or electrically assisted bicycles are excellent alternatives to choose to visit without polluting.

The right thing to do: Practise slow tourism by multiplying nature hikes. Far from the tourist sites, some authentic places can simply be reached on foot. And some secret paths are often off-road.

3. Travel light

A vehicle’s carbon footprint is intimately linked to its load.

To minimise its impact on nature, luggage must be reduced as much as possible. Focus on one small suitcase/bag per person. Need help on what to pack ? Consider our eco-friendly packing list

Anything that can be bought during the trip helps to reduce the total weight of the vehicle. So avoid packing loads of water and food supplies, you’ll have plenty of occasions to restock on the road.

The advantage ? Choosing to consuming locally will limit the production of CO2, while at the same time  you’ll support the economy of the places you visit.

4. Consider eating local

eat local while you travel

To help support the local economy, consider eating local.

Throughout your itinerary, you will discover typical restaurants and food trucks. But there’s also nothing better than heading to a local market if you have cooking facilities in your van.

By preparing your meal breaks before departure, you will even be able to find eco-friendly places to eat.

Eco-friendly restaurants promote fresh and seasonal products.

The bonus, when you’re own the road ? You will undoubtedly discover the local gastronomic heritage through regional specialities on the menu.

5. Use natural products

responsible van life

Soap, dishwashing liquid and shower gels are rich in surfactants.

They can also be enriched with preservatives, dyes and fragrances. These components are harmful to the environment.

For a conscious road trip, you can avoid water pollution by choosing better products:

  • Choose cold soaps, black soap or Marseille soap that are free of toxic components.
  • Replace sulphate-rich shower gels with organic liquid soap.
  • Opt for a natural dishwashing liquid.

The Don’ts : No matter what soap you use, don’t disrupt ecosystems by washing dishes in lakes, rivers or ponds.

6. Make your trip plastic-free

avoid plastic on a road trip

To avoid buying single-use plastic, plan to move towards zero waste.

There are many alternative reusable products for the eco-friendly roadtrippers :

  • Wooden cutlery and plates will be part of the trip.
  • Take a reusable coffee cup that avoids having multiple plastic cups on the road.
  • Forget plastic water bottles and turn to a more ecological version with a stainless steel water bottle.
  • Think about reusable straws if you need them and sealed cans for your food purchases.
  • Choose solid soaps, shampoos, toothpaste : you’ll save space and avoid packaging

7. Make your stay at the beach reef-safe

reef safe sunscreen

Every time you use sunscreens, chemical residues dissolve into water and causes coral bleeching. Every year, 4,000 tons of residues attack the coral reef, which is threatened with extinction.

If you are planning a road trip one the coast, choose a mineral sunscreen that is ocean-friendly. This way, you can enjoy the sea without having a harmful effect on the environment.

Want to go further? Rediscover our article on the effects of chemical sunscreen on corals

8. Don’t leave any trace

No waste should be left in the wild after you’ve experienced it.

Anything that you brought on site must be packed and disposed in a waste bin provided for this purpose.

Think of the packaging but also of food leftovers, which must be carefully recovered so as not to disrupt biodiversity. The place should be left in the same condition as you found it. Or even cleaner.

Wild car drainage should of course be a no-go. Focus on drainage areas available at gas stations by along your route. You can also find some in the service areas of the campsites or in the car wash stations.

9. Respect biodiversity and natural areas

protect natural spaces

Visiting and enjoying nature requires certain respectful behaviours.

For a road trip that rhymes with the preservation of the environment, here’s how to behave in the middle of nature:

  • Take the marked trails so as not to disturb the local fauna.
  • Campfires should be carried out in the areas delimited by the local authorities.
  • And remember an eco-friendly traveller respects the silence of the place.

The right move: Use binoculars to observe animals from a distance without disturbing them. You’ll also have the opportunity to take beautiful photos and videos with lenses and live an ethical wildlife observation experience

10. Limit your water usage

save water on your road trip

If water is essential, simple gestures can help reduce its consumption.

Throughout your road trip, here are a few tips to remember:

  • Avoid letting water run when you wash yourself.
  • Take short showers
  • Wash the dishes in a cascade from the greasiest to the cleanest.
  • Fill your waterbottle at fountains, refill stations or in rivers if you have packed a filtering waterbottle.

11. Not in a camper van ? Choose an ecofriendly accomodation

sleep green on a road trip

If you have planned stops along the way to visit and enjoy breathtaking scenery, and you’re not riding in a van, book an ecofriendly accommodation along the way.

Many options exist that are suitable for all types of travellers:

From conscious hotels promoting zero waste and eco-construction, to lodges and glamping in the nature or even eco-friendly hostels, we’re sure you’ll find an accomodation to make your road trip match your environmentally friendly lifestyle from start to finish.

Have other tips to share to make a road trip more sustainable ? Share them in the comments.  

Holiable is an eco-friendly travel planner helping you find sustainable hotels, green restaurants and ethical tourism activities around the world. Holiable was developed to share experiences, advice and reviews on sustainable travel, making it easier to prepare your next eco-friendly holiday.
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