Travel by Car


In the fall of 2014, I undertook a huge road trip taking me from Vancouver to Seattle, then to Portland, then San Francisco, and finally all the way down to San Diego, then back home. All told, it was a 5000 km journey. But the call of the North American road trip had beckoned, and I heeded its words. And to this day, I don’t regret it as seeing the sights of the Highway 1 down the Oregon and Californian coast were breathtaking!

I took my little Honda Civic, which, for all its fuel efficiency, cannot be considered a sustainable vehicle. But unless you’re in a snazzy new Tesla or other alternative fuel vehicle, travel by car can rarely be deemed truly sustainable. That said, you can take measures to mitigate your environmental impacts.

Rhiannon Batten, author of “Higher Ground: How to Travel Responsibly Without Roughing It” provides the following tips for low-carbon driving:

  • Check your tires: underinflated tires have to work harder to get your car moving.

  • Ditch the clutter: extra weight also makes your car engine work harder, burning more CO2.

  • Stick to the limit. In addition to safety, driving the limit can be economical as well.

  • No Mo’ Stop n Go: starting and stopping means your engine is using more fuel.

  • No need to rev those engines. It only wastes fuel.

  • Avoid idling whenever possible. If you anticipate waiting more than 3 minutes, switch off your engine.

  • Keep a natural cool: use vents and windows as opposed to the AC.

  • Consider offsetting your carbon emissions by purchasing carbon offsets from a reputable company, one certified by The Gold Standard.

If your vacation simply takes you to urban environments, it’s possible to avoid driving at all and still getting to where you want to go. People-powered options such as bicycling can be a great way to explore the city as well as get a workout in there too. Public transit such as buses, streetcars/trams and subways are also great alternatives to driving.

But if you absolutely need to drive, we recommend considering using a car share program. Car share programs have exploded in the last half decade. They’re perfect for city driving as you’re not likely to go very far, especially if your interests are simply to explore what the city has to offer. Many of them also have solid sustainability policies in place as well. In Vancouver, we have four local car share programs: Zipcar, Modo Car Co-op, Car2Go, and Evo Car Share. Many other cities throughout North America and Europe have well-established car-sharing programs such as Zipcar, PlanetTran (U.S. only), EcoLimo (Austrailia), Bio Beetle (Hawaii and Los Angeles), and many more!