Going Green: Reduce emissions to make your summer travels more eco-friendly

Photo by In Green/Shutterstock.com
Photo by In Green/Shutterstock.com

By Greg Jones
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office

The start of summer means good weather, and of course, traveling. Living in Europe, there are certainly a lot of great places to travel to over the summer, but how you choose to get there can make a big impact on the environment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, ozone pollution, which is contributed to primarily from vehicle emissions, generally peaks during the months of April through October, on hot, sunny days with little or no wind and no precipitation.

Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce those emissions.

First and foremost, if it’s time to buy a new car, make sure you look for a fuel efficient car. Recent advances in automotive technology have made cars more and more efficient so that it is not uncommon for vehicles to get30 or more miles per gallon. For more information on fuel economy, you can visit www.fueleconomy.gov.

So, if the current family vehicle is going to have to continue serving you, make sure it is tuned up and maintained properly. Also, ensure the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Over or under inflated tires, or a poorly tuned engine make your vehicle less efficient, which in turn increases the exhaust emissions.

Turn off the engine if the car is going to be stationary for more than 30 seconds when waiting for trains, when picking up passengers and other extended stops. This will not only help save the environment, and your wallet, it’s also required by German law.

Also, minimizing the use of air conditioning in vehicles contributes to a further reduction of emissions. Planning your travels for early in the morning, or later in the evening will help reduce the amount of time you spent traveling during the hottest part of the day. It may also have the added bonus of helping to avoid the worst of those traffic jams created by thousands of other vacation travelers on the Autobahn.

Finally, for a truly green summer vacation, consider foregoing the family car altogether and using public transport instead. Germany’s extensive rail and bus network connects cities throughout Germany, most likely providing a connection from your village to whatever your destination may be. There are a number of summer specials offered by both the German national rail service and various regional services. Using public transport can take a little longer, but the journey can be part of the vacation itself. Using the German public transport system does take a little planning, and a basic understanding of how the train lines interact to get you from your hometown to your dream destination this summer.

For more information on how to navigate the German public transport system, check out our in-depth article by clicking here.