Greening the Family Road Trip

There are lots of ways to keep your road trip sustainable. (Photo: Michael Urmann/Shutterstock)

Ahh! Nothing says summer like the family road trip! Last summer, skyrocketing gas prices kept most families close to home. Of course, this was a boon for the planet, but lower gasoline prices this summer means that road trips are once again an American reality. Don't feel guilty. A road trip with your family doesn't have to be an eco-disaster. Try these tips to make your next excursion a green one.

Monitor your miles : The biggest factor in greening your family road trip is to limit the number of miles you will drive. Why drive across the country when you can look closer to home for fun destinations? Chances are there are nearby attractions that you have not seen or visited in years. Instead of stressing out about long stretches in the car (and endless stops at the pump), plan a more relaxed road trip with stops at your local art and children’s museums, aquariums, zoos, parks or botanical gardens. Mark your calendar for special events like children’s theater, art shows, food-and-music festivals, book readings and more.

Line up green lodging: Check out The Green Hotels Association or Environmentally Friendly Hotels to find eco-savvy hotels, motels or B&B;'s along your route. Planning to camp? Check out this campground directory to find a campsite that meets your needs.

Minimize waste : Make sure you bring your own garbage bag for the car and keep a close eye on the amount of waste you create each day. Pack reusable drink bottles, sandwich containers, tableware and toiletries to minimize your trash. At pit stops, look for meals and snacks that don't create a lot of waste, and use your own containers instead of disposables whenever possible.

Buy sustainable souvenirs : Steer clear of the tacky T-shirts and shot glasses and look for something that will help your whole family remember the trip. Locally produced foods, crafts or art support the community and reduce the pollution and transportation costs associated with importing goods.

Offset it : There is no denying the fact that you will need to do some driving to make this road trip authentic. So plan some carbon offsets into your vacation budget to try to negate the carbon emissions of your vacation. The money you spend on carbon offsets will be used to plant trees or support a renewable energy project, thereby “offsetting” the carbon emissions generated during your travel. Check out Carbon Neutral or Green Tags USA to calculate carbon emissions and purchase greentags.