Transportation & Travel Tips

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Buying Green Vehicles

Even if you're not ready for a hybrid car, if you are purchasing a new vehicle there are some ecological points to be aware of. When buying a car:

• Look for a car with the best fuel economy possible. The car will use less gasoline – which is not only good for the environment (as there is a proven relationship between fuel economy and global warming), but good for the wallet as well.
• Look for a car with an excellent air pollution score. The air pollution score deals with the pollutants from the vehicle that produce smog and air pollution; the score is from 0 to 10, with 10 being the best.
• Check the car's greenhouse gas score. Like the air pollution score, it is on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the best. The greenhouse gas score measures the car's exhaust emissions of carbon dioxide.
• Buy a car with the US EPA “SmartWay” certification. A car receives a SmartWay certification if the combined total of their greenhouse gas score and their air pollution score is 13 or higher. The “SmartWay Elite” designation is given to cars that have a 9 or higher on both the greenhouse gas score and the air pollution score.

What is eco-travel?

Be an Eco-traveler

The term “eco-travel” is becoming more commonly used – but what is it? And how do you become an “eco-traveler?”

Eco-travel, rather than having a set definition for every destination, deals with being conscious of the environmental and social issues facing a certain location. For example, paying admission to a National Park in Utah means the money will go towards park upkeep and programs; paying admission to a National Park in Costa Rica, however, may mean something completely different.

To be an eco-traveler, research your destination, lodging and transportation before you book and arrive. Only patronize businesses and organizations that have respect for the local environment and cultures. And remember, just because a lodge or hotel has “eco-“ in its name, it doesn't mean that it's not dumping sewage in a stream behind it – it just means it's located in a natural setting.

When traveling, try to support the local economy by researching your lodging and entertainment choices through web directories. Don't be afraid to call and ask questions before you book about the lodge or hotel's environmental stance and conservation efforts, and who it is owned by.

Being an eco-traveler means being conscious of where you're staying, how they treat the environment, and whose pockets you're putting money into. Do your research, and you can be an eco-traveler, too.


Use Alternative Travel

Whether you're going on a long trip or just going to the store, using alternative modes of transportation can help out the environment immensely. Single-passenger cars are a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gases, and by reducing your car travel, you can do your part for cleaner air and a better earth.

When going on short trips or errands, consider these alternative modes of travel:
• Biking – hop on your bicycle and ride to the store, library, or work (if possible). There are additions you can buy for your bicycle that allows you to tow large amounts of groceries or other purchases, if that's a problem; if you are just grabbing a few items, take a backpack or put a basket on your bike.
• Ride a scooter – scooters are gaining in popularity, and they get great gas mileage. Most scooters, with adequate engines, are allowed on regular highways and are a great way to get to work.
• Walk – just running up to the grocery store? Hoof it! You won't be using any gas and you don't be polluting the environment; plus, it's good for your body.
• Carpool – try to find other people on your route to work or other places you regularly go, and you'll be saving on gas and on pollutants.

If you're going on a longer trip, consider these alternatives to driving:
• Take the bus – hop a Greyhound to your destination. Most cities have bus terminals, and you can get just about anywhere you want to go. Bus tickets are usually cost-effective, as well.
• Take a train – yes, there are still passenger trains around, with service to most major cities. On a train you can have all the comforts of home – a sleeper berth, a dining car – and you can enjoy the scenery as you travel.


Preparing to Travel

Before you go on vacation, there are several steps you can take to help out the environment in your own home. Use this checklist the next time you go on vacation and you'll be conserving energy, water, and keeping your bills lower.

• Stop delivery of your newspaper. Are you really going to read all those old issues? Save paper by canceling your subscription while on vacation
• Make sure all lights are off and the air conditioning/furnace is on an appropriate setting. If you want to leave a light on, invest in a timer that you can hook a lamp to that turns the light on only at night (or at the times you designate)
• Turn off your water. There's no need to have the water on while you're gone, especially for a long period of time. In the winter, especially, pipes can freeze and break, and it's not only ecologically sound, but common sense to turn off the water
• If you don't turn off the water, make sure all faucets are in good repair and not leaking, and none of your toilets run; leaky toilets and faucets can add up to a lot of wasted water while you're gone
• If it's summer, keep the blinds or curtains drawn to keep the house cooler. In winter, leave windows open for the natural sunlight to warm the house

If you follow this simple checklist, you can rest easier while on vacation that you're helping the environment – and your home utility bills!


Earth-Friendly Day Trips

If you have a long weekend or are just itching for someplace to go on a sunny Saturday, you may want to load the family in the car and go on a day trip. But even though you're only traveling for the day doesn't mean that you can't be environmentally conscious. Choose a day trip that is earth-friendly as well as fun.

Some considerations:

• Avoid driving long distances for your day-trips; pick something closer to home. You use less gas and produce less pollution.
• Consider activities that are green; instead of going shopping, go hiking or biking.
• When hiking, biking, swimming, or doing other outdoor activities, leave only footprints: make sure to dispose of picnic waste in trash bins, and don't take souvenirs from nature.
• Consider a day-trip that will actually help the environment. Participate in a clean-up effort at a local park or along a stretch of highway.
• If you're going to eat on your trip, take your own food in a cooler and reusable containers. Fast food generates a lot of trash – especially if you're feeding a family.
• Never toss garbage out the window of your car – it's not only bad for the environment, but in most states you can be ticketed and fined!

How can I drive more earth-friendly?

Green Up Your Car

If you can't afford a new car or don't want to buy one, there are ways to make your current car more ecologically friendly. Follow these simple tips to “green up your car.”

• Use your air conditioning sparingly – to reduce your use, use a sunshade, or park in a shady spot on hot days. Or, try rolling down your windows rather than cranking up the A/C.
• Be smart when gassing up: only fill your car when it's cool, as hot gas fumes are worse for the environment. Use only regular unleaded gas unless your car requires a higher grade, and avoid topping off your tank.
• Drive sensibly. Try combining trips, since a cold engine will use more fuel than an already-warm one. Also, avoid traveling when roads are most crowded, and listen to the radio to avoid traffic jams.
• When accelerating, don't floor your gas pedal. Also, brake gradually rather than slamming on the brakes.
• When driving on the highway or on long trips, use your cruise control and stay within the speed limit to use less gas.
• Turn off your car if you are going to idle more than 30 seconds (if possible).

Just because you can't have a new-fangled hybrid car or buy a new vehicle with more eco-sense doesn't mean you can't be ecologically conscious. Be a smart driver!


Environmentally Conscious on Vacation

There are lots of ways you can be environmentally conscious on vacation; you can reuse towels in the hotel room, turn off all your room lights and electronics, and use as few “freebies” from the hotel room as possible. Other ways you can be environmentally conscious while you're enjoying a trip away from home:

• Carry bottled water with you rather than buying it; refill the bottle rather than throwing it out and getting a new one
• Don't use Styrofoam coffee cups or other Styrofoam containers; they create more waste than paper ones. Carry your own reusable thermos or cup and take bags or foil for restaurant leftovers
• Take your own snacks and food in reusable containers; this will reduce fast food waste
• Use your hotel's e-bill program (if available) and use e-tickets through your airline to reduce paperwork
• Use a regular camera – or, even better, a digital camera – because disposable cameras produce more waste. If you use a digital camera, only print the pictures you like to save photo paper
• Use larger rolls of film – 36 shots rather than 12 or 24 shots – to reduce waste

You will enjoy your vacation more when you know you're caring for Mother Earth as well as relaxing away from home.

What are hybrid cars?

Hybrid Cars -- An Overivew

You may have been hearing about hybrid cars, but do you know what they are? How they work? Here's a brief overview.

Hybrid cars use a rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) in conjunction with fuel propulsion power to make them go. Usually the RESS is an electric source, and the fuel propulsion system uses gasoline; this combination results in a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle.

Some modern hybrids use kinetic energy that is captured when the car breaks. Hybrids usually have a second electric motor that recharges the power or feeds power to an electric motor, unlike all-electric cars which have to be recharged from an external source.

Hybrids can have a series, parallel, or full hybrid construction, referring to the way the electric engine and the fuel propulsion engine are connected together. Most modern-day hybrids are parallel, which means the electric and combustion engines are connected.

Benefits of hybrids are plenty; they are more energy efficient than standard combustion engines, they cause reduced wear and tear on the gasoline engine in the car, they are quieter, and they have less polluting emissions. Buying a hybrid also entitles you for a tax credit on your Federal income taxes, and some states offer additional tax incentives on hybrid cars.

What is ecotourism?

Consider Ecotourism

Rather than booking another trip to an amusement park or historical site, consider ecotourism instead.

Ecotourism focuses on local cultures and community, and encourages visiting places where the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the main attractions – rather than human-made structures. Ecotourists also try to reduce as much as possible the traditional impact of tourism on the local environment, and engage in programs such as wilderness adventures, volunteer work, and learning new ways to take care of the planet.

Ecotourism is dedicated to the preservation of local cultural and natural resources of a specific location, and also is dedicated to the sustainability of local populations through job opportunities. It minimizes the concept of luxury, since luxury often means waste, and tries to increase tourists' cultural end ecological knowledge of an area.

Just because a hotel is located in a beautiful natural setting does not mean it is following the principles of ecotourism, to many experts' dismay. Many people misunderstand the concept of ecotourism, and are led astray by marketing ploys or “green-washing,” when organizations use the terms “eco-“ or “green” to make potential customers believe they are ecologically sound but are actually ecologically irresponsible.

To be a responsible ecotourist, do your research and make sure the local attractions are really the natural beauty and local culture, and not ritzy hotels or other human-made things.

How can I be green when staying at hotels?

Being Green at Hotels

Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you can ignore the environment. There are many ways to be ecologically conscious right in your own hotel room. Consider these tips:

• Don't launder towels that aren't dirty, or that could be used again
• Before leaving the room, turn off all lights and electronics (the TV, radio, etc)
• In the summer, keep the curtains pulled over the window to keep it cool; that way, you don't have to use the air conditioning as much
• Keep the same glasses/cups for the duration of your stay, to keep the hotel from having to wash more dishes
• Don't take the individual soaps, shampoo, lotions, etc; the more of these the hotel uses, the more waste that's produced
• Take short showers or baths, to conserve water
• Find the nearest train/subway station or bus stop to the hotel, and use public transportation (or walk) to your destinations

Not only will these tips help the environment, but if enough people engage in these kinds of conservation activities, they will help keep the cost of staying in a hotel room down.

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PJ Campbell