A couple of years ago, on a road trip to the Grand Canyon, I was absolutely blown away by Flagstaff, Arizona. And “blown away” puts it mildly, to be honest. I’d never been to Arizona before. I expected red rock and, well, you know, the Grand Canyon. But Flagstaff was in the mountains — it was green everywhere, the smell of pine drifted through the air. It snows there, in Arizona. And the town was cool, like hippiesh. I watched live music and ate at delicious little restaurants.
“Oh,” I realized about midway through my stay, “I could live here.” If you had asked me the week before if there was any chance there was a place in Arizona I would volunteer to live, I would have laughed at you.
That’s the magic of a road trip: it forces you to see places you had dismissed — staying overnight in cool towns, meeting exciting people. When you fly, you tend to only pick the places that you’re sure you’ll vibe with. And that’s doing yourself a disservice. It’s why I think road tripping through the country is an experience everyone should absolutely have.
At the same time, we always have to think about our environmental footprint when we travel. And while driving across the country has a lot of benefits, environmentally speaking, it does affect the world. With that in mind, we came up with a list of suggestions to travel the country while making the planet a better place. Here are some ways you can give back to the Earth while also living your best life.
Bring a water bottle.
Kind of obvious, but at the same time, how many times have you bought a plastic water bottle because it was more convenient at the moment? Cut down on the plastic by planning ahead and bringing a reusable water bottle with you.
It’s not like you need to hit up campsites to refill, either. Gas stations always have free water in the soda station. Fill up often, stay hydrated, and know you’re not contributing to an overflowing landfill. Here’s what else you should bring: a reusable coffee cup for the late night drives, your own towel, and your own Tupperware for meals out. Any trip you go on, you’re going to eat out at some point. It might feel slightly weird to pull out your own Tupperware rather than take the styrofoam container for the other half of your grilled cheese, but when you eat that sucker cold on the drive the next morning, won’t you feel way better knowing that you’re not throwing out more waste after?
Donate to offset your carbon footprint
You expend energy and fuel on a road trip, that’s undeniable. One way you can offset that is to donate to an environmentally friendly charity based on your carbon footprint. This calculator is awesome. You enter your miles, car type, and car year, and it tells you what your carbon footprint is from the drive. Then you can donate one dollar for every 10th of a metric ton of CO2 emissions. So if your trip footprint is 0.16 metric tons of CO2e, donate 16 dollars. If it’s 0.345 metric tons of CO2e, donate $34.50. And if you’re looking for a place to send that money to, The Nature Conservancy is an awesome organization that protects land and water all over the world.