Holidays & Entertaining
Reduce your Thanksgiving travel carbon footprint
More than 65 million Americans hit the road or the skies to be home for Thanksgiving dinner in 2005 — creating a lot of greenhouse gases and air pollution in just one long weekend. Thankfully, we've got a few simple tips to help reduce the impact of your holiday travel.
There's no way around it: traveling miles and miles to share a single meal with family and friends is not the greenest of ways to spend a Thanksgiving. Yet that's what the holiday is all about: good food, great friends, and close family. In fact, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, with the number of trips Americans take to and from destinations of 50 miles or more away increasing by 54 percent during the six days surrounding the holiday. The good news? You can have your green ideals and eat turkey too by reducing the impact of your holiday travel with just a few simple adjustments.
How to reduce your holiday travel carbon footprint
- Choose a central location for your family get together: About 91 percent of long-distance travel over the Thanksgiving weekend is made by personal vehicle, such as by car. Every gallon of gasoline burned releases 20 pounds of CO2, and, because no combustion is perfectly clean, cars are also a primary source of local air pollution. By choosing a destination for your Thanksgiving dinner that is closest to all revelers, you can reduce the amount of gasoline needed to fuel many family members from far-flung locales, thereby reducing demand for gas that supports the hazards of the petroleum industry, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution.
- Take public transit to the other side of town: If you're staying in town, leave the car at home and take the bus (or subway or commuter train if they're available) to your Thanksgiving festivities. Buses, which emit 80 percent less carbon monoxide than the average car, can carry the equivalent of 60 car-loads of people. Trains, on the other hand, carry 200 car-loads of people, making them the most efficient transportation option. In fact, if just 10 percent of Americans used public transit every day, the US would decrease its reliance on foreign oil by 40 percent. That's something the earth will thank you for.
- Get out of town by train or bus: If you're planning to head out of town to make Grandma's Thanksgiving dinner, consider this: Traveling by train or bus creates fewer emissions per passenger than traveling alone in a car or taking a plane. Air travel and car travel possess similar energy intensity, meaning they use about the same amount of energy to transport one passenger 1 mile. On the other hand, according to Amtrak, which operates train service across the US, the carbon emissions per passenger mile when traveling by plane is .48 kg compared to only .21 kg when traveling by train. A report commissioned by the American Bus Association says buses produce the least — just .056 kg of carbon emissions per passenger mile. You'll make a difference and avoid long lines: currently, only 2 to 3 percent of Thanksgiving travelers take the train, bus, or some mode of transportation other than car or plane.
- Fly an airline with environmental policies in place: If you can't take the train or the bus, fly airlines with environmental policies in place. Five to 6 percent of Thanksgiving trips are made by air. Airplanes contribute to global warming by producing 600 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and US airports generate approximately 425,000 tons of garbage. Flying an airline that has developed fuel-efficiency and recycling programs, reduced energy use and sought renewable energy sources, and is finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the impact your holiday trip has on climate change and the environment.
- Buy carbon offsets: When you buy carbon offsets, you're giving financial support to carbon-cutting projects (like wind farms, biomass ventures, and initiatives that destroy the potent greenhouse gas methane) to help negate the carbon emissions created by your travel. Some airlines provide the opportunity to buy carbon offsets when you purchase your ticket. Independent organizations, such as TerraPass, Carbonfund.org, and GreenLife, sell carbon offsets for both plane or car travel.
- Bureau of Transportation Statistics - US Holiday Travel
- Fueleconomy.gov - How Can 6 Pounds of Gasoline Produce 20 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide?
- Ideal Bite - Want to get away for Labor Day weekend but hate the thought of all that traffic?
- TreeHugger - How to Green Your Public Transportation
- US Federal Aviation Administration - Office of Environment and Energy: Aviation & Emissions, A Primer Page 11
- Amtrak - Amtrak Recognizes Environment with Whistle Stop Events
- American Bus Association - Motorcoaches are Tops in Fuel Efficiency Per Passenger Mile, New Study Confirms
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