Respecting Our Planet On The Wide-Open Road

Tathra Beach

Lake Jindabyne

I have been quiet on the blog recently because I was finishing my thesis and have now submitted it! Wish me luck. We then took a family road trip, which included me attending two children’s writing events. We traversed across lots of wonderful places in Victoria and NSW, including Melbourne, Bega, Tathra, Canberra, Jindabyne, Lakes Entrance, Healesville and Lake Boga/Swan Hill. It was a lovely 2 and a half weeks on the wide-open road. We saw oceans and rivers, forests and mountains, and even snow! I will share more about the actual journey and some of the places we stayed, soon, but today I am talking about how to be more eco when you are on a road trip.

Road trips are my favourite holiday. They always make me feel free, as if everything else has melted away and it is just our little family, exploring the world. While the very fact of a road trip means you are using petrol, which is not very eco, there are so many aspects to this kind of travel, that are good for you. We take a number of steps when we travel, to try and reduce our footprint.

Consider Your Car and How to Reduce Fuel Consumption

I have been driving a Prius hybrid car for more than a decade. Ideally we would have a fully electric vehicle, but we can not afford one at the moment and the charging options around Australia are still limited. We did see a few along the way. Our hybrid means that we usually only need a few top-ups and use far less petrol. If you do not have a hybrid or electric car, there are things you can do to make your car more fuel efficient.
Tips for reducing your fuel needs on the road include:

  • Make sure you have had your car fully serviced, that the tyres are pumped and everything is running efficiently. This will be safer, and it will help you save on petrol and therefore emissions.
  • Sudden acceleration and driving too fast will also burn more fuel so drive safely and enjoy the journey.
  • Filling your car with an extra 10 or 20 kilograms of luggage per passenger, can reduce your fuel efficiency. Try to pack as lightly as possible.
  • Roof Racks also reduce fuel efficiency whether they are packed or not, so think twice about whether you really need one.

Bega Museum

Hiking near Tathra

Lake Jindabyne tree at lake

Take your own water bottles, thermos, tea flask, coffee plunger, keep cups and cutlery

There is no need to buy plastic throw-away cups and bottles on the road. Fill up a water bottle for each person, every morning. Take a couple of extra bottles of water in the car for top-ups. Take your own coffee plunger and tea flask. Pack a day bag with your tea-leaves, coffee, hot chocolate for the kids or herbal tea, a small flask of milk, thermos of boiling water, biscuits and snacks. Remember enough cups for everyone. Take some cutlery in a picnic bag. Just wash it all out when you reach your stop for the night, or the next few nights. Then start again. Most places along the road will also take your keep cup if you prefer to buy your tea and coffee, or stop for a while and have your break inside a cafe or bakery. There are so many to explore!

Go secondhand

Before we left, we all needed some winter clothing and coats. We had a shop at 2 of our favourite op shops in Adelaide and found so many fabulous items. I bought some designer shirts, jeans and tops. We got some coats and borrowed gloves from my parents. We also bought a few small items from op shops along the way. We did buy new beanies in Jindabyne and some locally made knitted items. I bought a few small collectibles as souvenirs. There was no need to even consider a clothing store for any of these items.

Take your own food and cook at least some of your own meals

I have many food restrictions and type 1 diabetes, which means I generally pack far too much food! John and Maxwell are happy for basic meals on the road. So, we often have tinned food, soups and other easy meals, which we cook ourselves. We shop in a couple of longer stops for cold foods and things we might want to cook. We always look for self-catering accommodation, so we can do that.
I eat vegetable soup (and only certain vegetables, which have to be peeled and pureed) each night, so I cooked up a big batch of soup on a couple of our longer stops and then bought some tupperware containers at the op-shop in Bega, and carried soup with me to each new place. We did end up having to buy some plastic containers when we got food in supermarkets, but we re-used these to pack sandwiches and snacks in and then recycled them when we returned to Adelaide.

Lake Jindabyne

sunrise Lake Boga

Take your own food wraps and containers

We took a few of our secondhand tupperware containers to keep our lunches in along the way and as above, I bought a few more in op shops for my soup. You can use beeswax wraps or any other eco-friendly containers and food wrappers, to keep your food fresh and your picnic covered up.
We were devastated as South Australians, to find that the recycling and composting options interstate were very limited. At the Tathra Beachouse we had amazing systems, with a composting bin on the bench you could empty into the larger bins on the property and a great recycling bin. Everywhere else was imposssible. It was so hard for us to wash out glass and plastic and not place it in recycling…. We did find this on a couple of properties, but not in most. The most disappointing being the QT Hotel in Canberra. We felt that it would be simple for such a large hotel to have recycling systems. We can not believe that other states have not jumped on the refunds for cans and bottles, it is such a fantastic initiative we have grown up with here in SA. Victoria in particular, needs to up the game when it comes to recycling.

amazing boulders in Alpine country

Mazwell in snow and yes he wore shorts the entire time!

Cut yourself some slack

Given the above, at the start we were tearing our hair out, but in the end, we had to let it go. Likewise on the occasions we bought cakes in hard plastic containers. It is not always possible on a holiday, to be as on top of things as usual. So prepare and do as much as you can, but then let it go a little bit. The idea is to lower your stress. As I said, we did re-use the plastic containers as much as we could and brought some home, but there were a few occasions where we left them on bench tops. We could not bear to bin them, so we have no idea if the accommodation did that, or there were hidden recycling bins, somewhere….

Be as gentle on the environments you visit as possible

As someone who grew up in the country and visits home regularly, this is very important to me. Tourists can come with no regard for the local area. Where I come from, they travel down the sweeping road that takes you from Adelaide to the coast, dragging their caravans and boats. I do not resent them. I do not want to rob them of this place. But they bring their dogs and let them run wild in the bushes, scaring the pelicans and the plovers. They crash through the delicate sandhills that my parents and others have tried to protect. They use their tractors to drive their boats straight into the bay. They have no history here, no connection. They do not know about the changing patterns of the beach. They see only what is here right now. They complain about the tide being out, they push their children down to the beach without the much-needed beach shoes to protect their feet from the sharp rocks. They flock to the sunset and the dolphins dancing through the falling light, in awe of the beauty, as if it is there just for them. They do not know the importance of the cradle, how the ocean brings us the rain, how our very lives depend on this place. For me, it is an experience of those who have no respect, demolishing my special place.
When we travel, we do not want to be these people. We want to fit into the environment as much as possible. We want to leave as little footprint as possible. We respect our accommodation, leaving it clean and tidy and we respect the natural environments we explore, taking our rubbish, not going into places that ask you to stay away, keeping on tracks and roads, and respecting the places we spend time in. Please be those people. Have care and respect for the people and the places you visit on the road, be part of them for a time and then leave them as they were when you arrived.
There is nothing like a road trip. Australia is a spectacular place. We are so lucky to live here. When we travel, time stops. We can be at one with nature and family, away from the distractions of the city and our everyday lives. We play Uno games and Monopoly around shack tables. There is laughter and hilarity, salty hair and gritty skin, turning to layers of clothing as we brace against icy winds. Days fold into nights, nights fold into days. I forget what day it is. I forget how old I am. I am immersed in nature and my boys, in the aliveness of it all. I remember other times and all the people in my life. We have so much to explore, get out into the world, but do it gently and with grace.
Do you love a road trip and do you have any tips to share?

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