Pack Your Spork: Checklist for a Sustainable Road Trip

Pack Your Spork: Checklist for a Sustainable Road Trip

I love road trips. I am THAT person on a road trip — coffee in hand and talking the whole way.

The intimate conversations allowing those in the car to get to know each other, the snacks, and simply the adventure are my favorite parts. I have been on two major road trips within the last couple of months. The first was all the way to the East Coast, to New Hampshire, and the second was far west, to Utah. All that time in the car helped me clear out my thoughts and create space for new ideas — such as making a list for a sustainable road trip.

If we take a little more time to be conscious about our actions and how they are affecting the Earth, we can make small changes that eventually have enormous impacts. The number of plastic water bottles I threw away, the extra clothes I never wore, and the plastic baggies stuffed in the side console are all small things I can easily change for my next road trip. 

TOP: The sunset driving from Capitol Reef National Park to Escalante, Utah. We pulled off the side of the road to enjoy the sunset after a long day of hiking. ABOVE: I cannot believe I saw this sunset over Lake Chocorua in New Hampshire. My hiking group passed by the lake and immediately turned around to soak in the view. It was such a treat after spending the day hiking Mt. Chocorua in White Mountain National Forest. Photos by Chloe Rice

Here are a few tips to make your road trip more sustainable.


Bring a reusable cup

This idea seems obvious, but I realized that before college I never carried a water bottle around. Nor do I carry a water bottle when I am outside my normal routine of class and work. However, taking a reusable water bottle on a road trip is one of the easiest ways to make the trip more sustainable. Not to mention you won’t have to keep throwing away the multiple plastic bottles you would surely go through.


Wrap in aluminum instead of plastic bags

Throughout my road trip around Utah, my friends and I started to notice that every national park provided a bin solely for aluminum. Because we were hiking for about eight hours a day and had to pack our lunches, we decided to start packing everything in aluminum foil rather than plastic bags. At the end of each hike, we simply tossed our aluminum in the recycling bin. 


From this high point during a hike in Capital Reef National Park in Utah, we could see all of the winding roads within the park. Photo by Chris May

Pack as little as possible

This is the hardest advice to give someone else because I rarely follow it myself. However, on my last road trip I packed two hiking outfits and two nighttime outfits — and believe it or not, I survived. Packing as little as possible is good for two reasons. Bogging down a car with items you may or may not use is bad for fuel efficiency. And the less you bring, the less you wash, and the less energy used. 


Spend a day completely in nature 

On both of my recent road trips, we spent the entire day in nature. We would wake up at 7 a.m. and travel to the trailhead and hike all day. Spending multiple days immersed in nature was an experience I will never forget. Although not all road trip plans consist of hiking every day, I think it is a good idea for at least one day of the trip. Spending time in nature means you are expending physical energy instead of digital energy, simply enjoying the environment and Earth around you. 


Pack a reusable spork

My grandma, who is into different outdoor adventures, always told me to pack a spork. For most of my life I never did, but I somehow remembered for my Utah trip — and it was a lifesaver. I ended up packing way more food that required a utensil than I originally planned. If I didn’t use the spork during a hike, I was surely using it to stir my coffee in the morning or soup at night.

As always, if you have any ideas feel free to reach out and we can add them to this list!

— Article by iSEE Communications Intern Chloe Rice