At the end of high school, some of my friends promised that we would make an effort to visit each other at our respective schools during our college careers. For the friend who chose to attend school in upstate New York, we quickly realized that this Thanksgiving Break would be the last time we would be able to visit. I’ll admit, road trips are inherently unsustainable. But as a quintessential part of the college experience, my comrades and I were determined to find ways to lessen our impacts throughout our trip.
Maybe the single most important choice we made was not drinking bottled water. All of us brought refillable water bottles so that when we stopped we could refill them at drinking fountains. This also saved us a lot of money by giving us more options of places we could stop to get water (such as rest stops rather than convenience stores) and also prevented us from spending money on bottled water. Between the three of us, we consumed at least one water bottle a day, saving the communities from the impacts of our 3 bottles a day for the 6 days we traveled.
Another choice that we made was not to consume fast food. We were able to accomplish this in a couple of ways. First, the night before we left, we bought enough groceries for our meals on the road. Packing enough non-perishables to make sandwiches and nutritious snacks such as Clementines and apples, we did not any purchase fast food throughout our trip. While the primary benefit for us was certainly saving money, there were other benefits. Probably my favorite was that it allowed for us to be able to eat in a park, walk around outside or enjoy the Michigan Welcome Center rather than sitting in a drive-through.
Finally, when we reached our destinations, we also made efforts to use public transportation or walk rather than drive our car. Spending a day in Toronto, we were determined to see it all in one day. To do so, it would have been easy to drive to some of the places that were relatively far from our hostel. However, by walking we were able to see so much more of the city and visit places spur of the moment, (often places that were interesting, but we may not have otherwise seen). Most importantly, our fondest memories of mixing up buildings and inadvertantly looking like an obvious group of bumbling tourists happened as we explored the different Toronto neighborhoods by foot.
In all that we do, there will always be an impact and we knew that our trip would be no exception. However, by committing to making small changes in our habits we felt that we were still able to have a great experience while removing unnecessary impacts within our trip.