Summer is the season for good times and the open road, but unfortunately it often is accompanied by a trail of fast-food wrappers and carbon emissions. To design a healthy road trip that ditches the carbon footprint, take these steps to make your getaway a green one.
What to eat
Start your trip with a cooler of fresh fruits and vegetables and a stash of your favorite cereals and crackers; that way, you'll be less inclined to pull over for fries between meals. Along the way, research nearby farmers markets and locally provisioned restaurants (find them at localharvest.org) where you can stop to dine and replenish your supplies.
Bring reusable utensils, dishes and food containers to reduce waste and save the resources required to make disposables. Handkerchiefs make great reusable napkins.
How to get there
Rent a hybrid or biodiesel car - your mileage will soar and your fuel costs and carbon emissions will shrink. No matter what you drive, regularly check your tires to make sure they are properly inflated, which can improve your fuel economy by 3.3 percent.
Try forgetting the car altogether. Bikes, buses and trains can get you almost anywhere. See railstotrails.org for ideas for a car-free trip.
Where to stay
Camping is the greenest option; it also gives you the opportunity to teach your children about the outdoors and to explore our country's most protected green spaces. Local, state and national parks offer campsites as well as backcountry camping. Some of the most popular spots can be booked weeks ahead of time, and some parks permit only a limited number of campers to preserve the natural surroundings. So reserve space early via recreation.gov and reserveamerica.com.
Green hotels are no longer limited to expensive, remote eco-lodges. Use istaygreen.org to find green hotels all over the world. Or when choosing hotels, ask about their recycling and water-saving cleaning programs.
Maximize your battery use by bringing along a solar-powered charger (you can find them at solio.com) for your cell phone and electronics, which you can place on the dash of the car as you go. Also consider LED roadside flares (niteize.com).
There is even an eco-friendly nationwide auto club for roadside aid. The Better World Club (betterworldclub.com) assists both cars and bicycles and can provide eco-travel tips and discounts on hybrid rentals. The group donates 1 percent of its annual revenue to environmental cleanup and advocacy.