This guide covers four things to consider when taking a sustainable road trip across the USA. It includes advice on how to prepare your vehicle, route and luggage in order to reduce your emissions and waste, as well as top tips for offsetting the carbon footprint of your trip.

From bustling cities to tropical beaches and rocky alpine landscapes, there’s plenty to see and experience throughout the USA. This diverse, exciting country is the perfect destination for those looking to experience a little bit of everything on a road trip.

While every traveller is eager to see each and every destination on their itinerary, most know that it’s important to do so while keeping sustainability in mind. But, how do you get the most out of your travel experience, whilst still being kind to the planet? In this guide, we explore some of the best ways you can ensure a sustainable road trip across the USA.

Prep your vehicle

Ensuring that your vehicle runs efficiently is key to taking a sustainable trip. No matter what kind of vehicle you’re driving, if it’s not kept in tip-top condition, it could have a negative impact on the planet.

Before setting off on your US adventure, you’re going to want to complete some simple maintenance checks, such as ensuring that your engine is working efficiently and that your tyres are fully inflated – if they’re not, your vehicle will need to use more energy to maintain its speed, ultimately leading to a greater consumption of fuel, and more harmful emissions that are expelled into the surrounding environment. Similarly, you can avoid loss of fuel by making sure that your gas caps are secure before taking to the road.

For many, hiring a rental vehicle will be the most convenient way to navigate the US – particularly if you’re visiting from overseas. If you choose this option, you’ll want to opt for a hybrid or electric vehicle – the latter of which produces no carbon emissions whatsoever, making it the most sustainable way to travel by car on your journey around the US.

Plan your route

Part of the fun of travelling by car is that you have the freedom to explore any destination as you please, stopping and starting along your journey as and when you wish. Although it’s great to have some sense of spontaneity on your travels, if you don’t take the time to plan a general route, you may find yourself travelling further off course than you really need to. Ultimately, the further you travel, the more fuel your vehicle will expend and the higher the carbon footprint of your trip will be. 

By creating a general itinerary for your road trip, you can make sure that you’re visiting each of the attractions on your must-see list – whilst also being responsible with your fuel consumption. For a top tip, remember to plan each of the routes to your chosen attractions in detail ahead of time, so that you don’t find yourself getting lost and travelling further than you initially intended to.

Pack responsibly

When preparing for any kind of holiday, it can be tempting to overpack and stock up on small items that you may or may not end up needing throughout your stay. The beauty of taking a road trip is that there’s no limit to the weight or size of the luggage that you can bring like there usually is on a plane – so you don’t have to purchase lots of single-use travel toiletries that would inevitably be thrown away at the end of your holiday.

So, how can you best pack for your US road trip with sustainability in mind? To start, you’ll want to make use of what you already have, rather than buying new clothing or products. Of course, if there’s an item you particularly need, you could consider borrowing from somebody else or purchasing second-hand. Similarly, you’ll want to do your best to use products that come with reusable or eco-friendly packaging. The key is to pack light and not take more than you truly need, to reduce the potential for waste, and therefore your impact on the environment.

Offset your carbon footprint

The truth is, it’s hard to travel without leaving a mark on the environment in some way or another. Because of this, it’s important to always do your bit to give back in any way that you can.

The goal of carbon offsetting is to focus on reducing your carbon emissions as far as possible in certain activities or areas of life, in order to compensate for those you release elsewhere. For example, upgrading to more eco-friendly home appliances to make up for the extra miles travelled on your road trip. Of course, offsetting can be more simple – you may want to recycle your travel accessories after you’ve used them, or partake in fun activities throughout your trip that allow you to contribute to sustainability efforts, such as charity work or conservation activities.

Why take a sustainable road trip?

A road trip is a wonderful way to experience all the stunning natural sights that the US has to offer, such as the many national parks and environmental reserves and landmarks. However, tourism can have a devastating impact on the environment, so when you visit these places, you’re going to want to do so in the most responsible and respectful way possible.

Ultimately, we want to enjoy the sights of the natural world for years to come, so it’s important to preserve them as best we can. By keeping sustainability in mind as you traverse the US, you can enjoy each and every destination on your itinerary, whilst also taking an active stance in the fight for a better future for our planet.