Every time we go out our front door, chances are we’re adding to our carbon footprint. So instead of always hopping on long-haul flights for far-flung forays, planning responsible road trips is a great way to explore closer to home without involving extreme combustion of fossil fuels to get from A to B. The most important thing to make getaways greener? Keep thinking deeply about every mode of transport, because if it’s beyond walking or cycling, it’s going to be a cause of carbon emissions. Ensuring every mile counts for as much as possible is a powerful way to have a positive impact.
Easy switches to become a cleaner, more considerate driver.
1. Check your tyres
The better serviced and maintained your car is, from its engine to its wheels, the smoother it will tick – and that includes making sure your tyres are at the ideal air pressure as recommended by the manufacturer. Better traction means greater road efficiency.
2. Burn less petrol
How to use less fuel when driving? Most tricks to achieving more miles per gallon come down to common sense. In the past, emissions were boosted as soon as you turned the key in the ignition but thanks to a trend towards ‘hypermiling’ – the term for getting as far as you can on each gallon – it’s possible to go further on less petrol. Cruising smoothly is quite literally more sustainable. It’s logical that if you drive at a slow, steady pace in a higher gear, you’ll burn less fuel, so go easy on the accelerator and act light-footed on the brake. If you have a hybrid car, keep your eye on the needle and the gauge will show if you’re operating on charge or burning fuel from the tank. Nerd out fully and find a route that best matches the optimal speed of a cool 45–50mph. And instead of flicking on the energy-powered air-conditioning, wind down the window to cool down.
3. Brake less
Peak petrol-guzzling comes from stopping and starting. We’re not saying you need to restrict yourself to one long road and flat terrain, but if you do spy an incline ahead, gently speed up on the approach so you gain a decent amount of momentum. And be mindful that slamming on the brakes releases polluting toxic dust into the air too.
4. Be as sleek and light as can be
You know how cyclists shave their legs to be more aerodynamic? It’s the same with cars – anything that sticks out, such as roof racks or flags, creates wind resistance which adds a drag to your vehicle, meaning you need to push that bit harder to gain the same speed as when there’s no added drag. Travelling lighter and not carting around heavy items in the boot when they’re not needed all contributes to chipping away at your carbon footprint.
5. Go for an all-electric vehicle
It’s best to opt for a fully electric car. Who isn’t a sucker for the strong, silent type? Take Volvo’s first pure electric model, the XC40 Recharge Twin, as an example of a big comfortable carrier that does 259 miles on a single battery charge, which costs less than £20 to power to the max (finding a compatible charging station may be a little more challenging than you are used to and you need to factor that into your plans). Plug-in EVs aren’t a silver bullet though – we still have to consider where the electricity to power the car comes from and how it’s stored. Measuring automotive sustainability isn’t just about exhaust pipe spewings but about pondering every link in the supply chain from build to end of life. Tesla is the best-known electric-car brand, but even the motor manufacturers of yore are demonstrating a determination to be greener. In the case of Volvo, blockchain technology is used for full traceability of all the raw materials that go into the XC40 batteries and there are plans to manufacture cars using steel forged without fossil fuels by 2026, a significant benchmark for the industry. It’s up to us consumers to keep doing our homework, asking more difficult questions and scrutinising every aspect of the choices we make.
6. Make eco pit stops part of the journey
Plan sustainable stop-offs that support small and independent eco businesses rather than rely on supersized highway services. Or plot where to have a picnic in parkland, and take in some art and culture along the way. Helping us jettison fast food in favour of ethical slow-living offerings is solar-powered Teals in Somerset, right on the A303: a photogenic food market, stylish gift and homeware shop and a restaurant overlooking an organic orchard make it a destination in its own right. Eco-designed, family-run Gloucester Services, between Junctions 11a and 12 on the M5, has a kitchen and farm shop. Cletwr is a non-profit shop and café just south of Snowdonia on the A487 near Machynlleth that funds community services. And luring us with family-friendly installations in the open air just off the M1 at Junction 38 is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
7. Do good en route
Factor in a pause for a beach or river clean-up while you’re on the road. Protecting the environment and animal habitats by actively picking up any rubbish is a wonderful way of ensuring we leave less in our wake. Charities such as the Marine Conservation Society flag events you can join along the coastline, and Thames21 invites volunteers to help tend to the 400-mile network of waterways around the River Thames.
8. The top road trips from London
Five circuits we love, to explore within easy reach of the capital.
9. Extraordinary drives around Scotland
Scotland has plenty of scenic routes. You can’t beat the world-famous 516-mile North Coast 500 route, starting and ending at Inverness Castle, as featured in our nine picks of the most picturesque tours in the UK.
10. A memorable tour of Wales
Wending your way through Snowdonia National Park in the north-west of Wales promises to provide screensaver-worthy views. For gently undulating roads through sweeping valleys and widescreen mountain peaks, you don’t need much more of a steer than our recommended routes.
Like this? Now read: