How to Go Green When Traveling for the Holidays

Dec 6, 2022 | Green Living, Seasonal Fun

The holidays are nearly here, and many of us plan to see family and friends or even get away for a trip all by ourselves. Being environmentally conscious wherever we are is important to many people. So, you might be curious about how you can travel while remaining energy efficient in your journeys and reducing your carbon footprint along the way. This article will give you tips to have fun during holiday travels while saving energy.


How to Save Energy While Traveling

Saving energy while traveling requires attention from start to finish. From planning where to go, to deciding how to get there, to remembering to turn down the water heater before you go, every turn presents an opportunity to be energy efficient. The key is to remain aware of your actions, options, and the impact they can make.


One of the biggest variables in determining the amount of overall energy necessary to make your trip happen is how far and where you’re going. If your plans involve seeing family or friends, your destination options might be limited based on where those people are located. If you’re deciding on a location where everyone can meet, or you’re taking your own trip and aren’t limited to the geographic location of others, you may be more easily able to factor energy-efficiency into your travel plans.


Consider giving the beaten path a break. When too many tourists descend on an area at once, it can be problematic to the local environment. Taking the road less traveled supports a wider range of locations and the livelihoods of the people who live there. There are even eco-tourism focused travel companies that offer travel packages that support local communities without harming the environment.


Planes, Trains, or Automobiles?

Wherever you go, make sure you get there with environmentally friendly transportation. Globally, transportation is responsible for 15-20% of emissions and so we should all consider how your holiday travel impacts the environment and make responsible decisions.



If you have an electric vehicle or access to public transportation is limited, driving is a great way to go. However, be mindful if you have a conventional gas-powered car.  The Environmental Protection Agency says the average passenger vehicle emits about 0.9 pounds of CO₂ per mile. That means that if you drive 100 miles to your holiday destination, your car will emit 90 pounds of CO₂.


Check your tire pressure before you go. Tires lose about one psi of pressure for every 10 degrees drop in temperature. Underinflated tires reduce gas mileage substantially. When driving, use cruise control on the highway to maintain an efficient speed and take it easy on the gas. Speeding, fast accelerating, and constant braking can reduce highway gas mileage by 15% to 30% and your city mileage by 10–40%, according to the DOE.


If you find yourself in heavy traffic sitting at an idle for longer than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. It might sound weird but, according to the Department of Energy, idling can use up to a half gallon of fuel per hour. Restarting your car only takes about 10 seconds worth of fuel.



Airplanes are one of the least energy-efficient modes of travel because they require a lot of fuel and produce a lot of emissions. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the only way to get where we need to be in the timeframes we have allotted. Some airlines are more active than others in addressing the environmental impact, so it’s worth doing a little research into any carrier you’re considering. If you use Google Flights, it will track carbon emissions for each flight so that you can select a low-impact option.


Take a Train

Did you know that over 500 destinations in 46 states all across the United States are connected by train? Trains are more sustainable than airplanes or cars. High-speed railways are powered by electricity and use less fuel which emits less carbon dioxide than diesel trains. Most trains are outfitted with fuel optimization and energy management technology that analyzes topography and the train’s size to optimize power and speed when moving people en masse.


Ride the Bus

Traveling long distances by bus can be a slower way to get around but if you have the time, it can be a scenic experience and an energy efficient way to travel since buses can transport many people at once, effectively reducing everyone’s carbon footprint. A bus with even seven passengers is more fuel-efficient and produces fewer emissions per passenger than the average car. Also, traveling by bus means fewer cars on the road, and that reduces emissions as well.


Pack Light

Packing light is not only convenient for you, but it is another way to save energy. The heavier your bags, the more energy is required to move them. It’s as simple as that. The Department of Energy warns that an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas by $0.03 per gallon. If you’re driving, pack your stuff in your car, and avoid the roof rack, which drops fuel efficiency 8–25%. If you have extra cargo, a rear-mount cargo box or tray are better.


Stay in Environmentally Conscious Accommodations

Look for hotels that make sustainability not only part of their brand message, but — more importantly — part of their operations. Choose hotels that utilize energy-saving practices like energy-efficient lighting, waste treatment systems, solar panel technology, and advanced heating and cooling systems that are designed to optimize energy use.


Or, just to throw out the idea, consider going camping. Okay, so this might be a longshot that doesn’t fit into everyone’s travel plans, but if you’re flexible or open to new adventures, sleeping under the stars and roughing for a few days could reduce your energy use almost down to nothing!


Be a Good Guest

No matter where you stay, be conscious and aware of how you use electricity, water, and other resources. Sometimes it’s tempting to crank the air conditioner or heater in a hotel room, but a good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it anywhere else. You can also reuse your towels for a few days to minimize laundry, and turn off the lights and electronics when you leave your room. 


Bonus — Turn Down Your Hot Water Heater Before You Leave Home

Want an easy way to save your own energy while you’re gone? Before you leave the house for holiday travel, set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating water is one of the primary energy expenses for most homes, accounting for nearly 20% of the utility bill. Reducing your water heater just 10 degrees Fahrenheit can save 5% on water heating costs. You might even leave it down when you return and let the savings continue!


Have a Great Holiday

Saving energy when you’re traveling for the holidays is like anything else. There are plenty of opportunities if you just keep your eyes open and make energy-efficiency a focus in your life. Check out our blog post for other ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Using efficient transportation, packing light, and staying in hotels or other lodging that also practice energy efficiency are just a few ways to carry the positive impact you make at home out into the world.

Stay safe and enjoy your time!

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