Can a road trip involving a car and just two people be a green experience given that a few tanks of petrol and some rubber from the tyres and a bit of wear and tear on the car will be expended? As kids, we went from Victoria to Queensland every year to visit my grandparents. The car had neither radio nor heater. We slept by the side of the road! Couldn’t do that these days!

Travel is only a matter of balance and ‘carbon offset’, while helping this process, is not as effective as avoiding waste.

Here are a few clues:

  1. Firstly make sure that what you are going for can’t be done via Skype or something local!
  2. Take your own drinking water in thermos flasks.
  3. Clean the car inside and out especially windscreens so that you have 100% visibility. Put some bug free in the wiper bottle and also check that the wiper blades are working well.
  4. Pack a picnic if you can at least for the first day. Pack some snacks and don’t automatically go for the packaged ones. Muesli bars are easily made. Apples can be pre-washed, bananas are good and the peels etc. can be left in an organic waste bin. Or, if you are near a free range farm, feed the cores to the animals. Put the banana peels discreetly into a garden as they are excellent compost (especially for orchids!).
  5. Keep a rubbish bag in the car (recycle your plastic bags or use Tupperware).
  6. Investigate the free-camping sites and follow their rules.
  7. Ensure that tyres are pumped up to the right pressure. (Check the inside of your door hinge for the compliance plate which will have the pressure).
  8. Don’t overload the boot on the way up. Leave room for farm produce on the way back (but observe fruit fly rules). Remember that a heavier car will consume more petrol.
  9. Do you really want to drive? Perhaps the train, bus or some other public transport would be better.
  10. Have the car serviced. If it is properly tuned and has just had an oil change, it will use less fuel.
  11. Is your car the most fuel efficient? If a gas guzzler, ditch it and take the train.
  12. Don’t go alone, but ride-share. Remember that the carbon footprint will be lowered this way. Also, think of things you can ‘achieve’ on the way. Perhaps you could deliver some gifts for people’s Christmas or birthday. Drop in and say hello, put a sticker on the box ‘do not open till Christmas’ and save the postage and carbon footprint of your box. Plus you have had a nice visit! Offer that service to your neighbours as well if you are in the area where their rellies live.
  13. Study the maps well, perhaps invest in a GPS but make sure you know where you are going. Wrong turns burn fuel.
  14. If traveling with children, buckle up, check child restraints for correct alignment and make them some little (non-messy) activity kits to stave off the boredom of a long drive. My mother always used to put together some surprises in a Tupperware box for each of our kids and they were really simple little bits and pieces that kept them busy.
  15. Allow for the car-sick passengers – bring ginger lozenges (some great Indonesian ones are at Tat Sing and other Asian grocery stores).
  16. Dress for the weather not for your car heater or air-con. If cold weather, put a few blankets in the car.
  17. Plan your loo stops or meal stops. The more stops you make, the more fuel you will burn.
  18. No lighting fires in the bush! Check the fire status and obey the rules. We don’t want any more bushfires EVER.
  19. Don’t take off in peak hour. Managing the city in peak hour is a great fuel burner.
  20. Road kills are not fun. Invest in one of those kangaroo repellent whistles to attach to your bumper bar to warn kangaroos that you are approaching. Avoid wombats. Drive with car on country roads.
  21. Stick to the speed limit or 5 kph under. Drive as though you are delivering eggs! This will preserve fuel.
  22. Drive ‘ahead’ – don’t speed up to intersections but make sure you are ready for lane changes and turns well ahead.
  23. If you are in a traffic jam, turn off the engine.
  24. When you arrive at the destination, see what attractions you can walk to when there.
  25. Don’t buy tacky souvenirs. Buy local produce and eat it there instead.
  26. Hopefully you are staying at a green hotel! Don’t throw your towels out every day (or your sheets)! Preserve the water – just because you are not at home doesn’t mean you can waste water with that massive spa bath filled to the rim.
  27. Garage the car if possible and wash the road dirt from the car (onto the lawn if possible to save water.)
  28. Dump your waste in the right bins! Recycle where possible.
  29. Take some toilet paper in the car for roadside long-drop loos. And a bottle of water for hand washing. Some of those installations are a little unkempt.
  30. When you get home, plant some trees to make up for your use of carbon. No land? As your council where you can contribute some vegetation. Or don’t ask them. Just put a sustainable forest in your nature strip!!
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