1). Travel light. Whether you’re flying or driving, extra weight can reduce fuel economy. For the bookworms among you: You can leave the weight and bulk of your winter reading material at home by going digital with a Kindle reader or the free Kindle app for the iPhone or iPod Touch (see Katie’s post on why the Kindle is good for the planet).
2). Go mass. Mass transit options, including both buses and trains, can reduce the emissions from a trip compared to flying or driving even a high-MPG hybrid vehicle (depending on the distance and the size of your group). If you’re visiting family away from home and need some help navigating the local transit system, you can check out the City-Go-Round database, a Software for Civic Life project that makes it easy to find “apps that help you get around” by city or ZIP.
3). Outsmart traffic: Sitting in a traffic jam increases the amount of emissions for a given trip. If you’re driving, try to do it during off-peak travel hours and days (according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, arriving and departing on trip on Monday through Thursday is your best bet for skipping highway congestion), and consider using real-time tools for avoiding traffic. Mapping company Navteq claims real-time traffic GPS systems, which provide updated traffic conditions and navigation routes for drivers, can cut down on driving time by 18 percent and reduce carbon emissions by 21 percent compared with drivers without navigation systems.
4). Mind your MPG: The number of apps available to help you track fuel use and maximize efficiency seems to grow by the day. We’ve listed five of them here. Want real-time feedback on how your driving behavior (or that of your spouse behind the wheel) affects your fuel economy? Try the free Honda Compare Your Drive to Insight app, one of our 8 iPhone Apps for Car 2.0.
5). Pack ’em in: Carpooling offers one of the simplest ways to get dramatic fuel and emission savings on the road — take one car instead of two for the same trip, and you cut the amount of fuel that will be burned for that journey by about half. As Celeste has written over on GigaOM, startups are reinventing carpooling and ride-matching on the web. To name just a few: GishiGo uses 99-cent PayPal transactions as a screening tool, ZimRide’s Facebook application lets users find rides within their opt-in network, and iCarpool helps you find co-workers, neighbors and friends to share a long distance trip or ride to an event.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user ellie