I think if you ask most caravanners, the biggest motivation for caravan holidays is to enjoy the slow travel lifestyle including being immersed in all aspects of the country. Every landscape, deep red dirt, stark white sand, bone shaking gravel roads, the dead straight black tar or winding ribbons of roads are all aspects of the journey. Then there are the forests, deserts, cliff edges, plains and lazy days on coasts. With all the devastation of bushfires and droughts experienced throughout the country lately, it has had me wondering how much caravanning contributes to carbon emissions and what can be done to lessen our impact on the country while enjoying holidays on the road.
Road trips enable us to see and appreciate this country first hand and by visiting areas we are contributing directly to the economy of the towns. Buying food, paying to stay, frequenting shops and eating out are all helping communities.
One plus is that taking a driving holiday in your own country is better (greener) than aeroplane travel and much better than a cruise. Apparently cruises are the worst for the amount of pollution they generate. To do the best with driving holidays, the more people in the car the better, so for all the family travellers out there, well done! Yes we have a big diesel 4wd, but travelling with a caravan can mean little or no car travel needed once we get to our destination. Once there we can either walk, ride a bike or take public transport options. Until there are viable options such as 4WD hybrids or electric vehicles capable for towing and charging stations in remote areas, there are a few other measures we can take at the moment. Perhaps solar and energy storage options will be the go eventually. We are a clever country and I’m sure there are people working on this issues at the moment. We can’t fix problems overnight but every little bit that we all try can help.
Reducing fuel consumption is a start and tips from experts include, not over-revving your engine, accelerating gently and slowly and changing gears as soon as your engine can handle the next highest gear. Driving smoothly and keeping a steady speed can increase fuel economy by 30%. Another tip is to reduce speed to 90kp/h or below for the best efficiency. For every increase of 10kph, fuel consumption can increase by 10%. Keeping tyres properly inflated, having wheel alignments and regularly servicing, including new air filters before driving holidays all help with reducing emissions. Maintenance is something we do for both the car and caravan before heading off for a long trip.
When it comes to caravanning, being much smaller than the average home (which can release seven tonnes of CO2 into the environment annually, mostly from electricity), it makes sense that by minimising our use of power we are doing better already. Not to mention that we can use power generated from solar panels and with a smaller area to cool, we can use fans and open windows instead of running the air conditioning when possible.Sustainability is also possible on holidays by making an effort to stay in caravan parks that have environmentally friendly practices. You can do little things like replace your van’s light bulbs with LED varieties and keep up rubbish and recycling practices up on the road. Keep separating rubbish and recycling when you’re camping, or make sure to sort rubbish when you’re in caravan parks where different bins are provided. This is another good reason for buying from farmers markets too, take your own market bags and you’ll have no packaging to deal with and know that there aren’t huge transport issues involved. Become a locavore! (A person who only eats food that is grown or produced in their local area). In the van when it comes to food storage think about wax wraps instead of plastic cling wrap to cover food. These are a great alternative that work really well and can be easily washed to use over and over again.
Even though we may be travelling we can reduce our carbon footprint everyday by the choices we make. They may seem minor but if everyone is doing something minor every single day, it adds up. It reminds me of that saying, ‘It’s only one straw said 8 billion people”. Something we do every beach visit is ‘take 3 for the sea’, usually more actually. This basically means noticing and cleaning up any rubbish left on the beach (or anywhere for that matter). It’s pretty unbelievable that people still litter in this day and age but on our beaches there are also noticeable bits and pieces washed up from boats.
Our actions do make a difference but another way we can feel like we are doing better is to contribute to a carbon neutral fund. I have discovered the Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund which uses contributions to plant trees and shrubs on degraded farmland to restore natural habitat. Every carbon offset you purchase enables more trees to be planted and you can give a set dollar amount or relate it to how many tonnes of CO2 you wish to offset. For instance for $122.55 they will plant enough trees to offset 6.45 tonnes which is equal to the average yearly emission from a petrol 4WD. Or $49 will offset 2.58 tonnes of CO2, equal to the average household gas and electricity emissions from one person.
To date this charitable organisation has planted about 5.4 million trees to restore degraded ecosystems, and all donations are tax deductable. This has to be a great way to be giving back to the environment. If anyone has other tips on ‘Green Caravan Holidays’ I’d love to hear them.