Average Carbon Rank: 5 out of 5 (worst)
Many eco-minded travelers opt for four-wheeled transportation as a means of ditching the carbon footprint of air travel. But believe it or not, driving alone is almost as carbon-intensive – if not more so – than traveling by plane.
Driving an SUV that gets about 18 miles-per-gallon creates a whopping 1.6 pounds of carbon emissions per mile, according to Sightline Institute. Driving an average car with around 23 MPG creates approximately 1.1 pounds of CO2 emissions per mile, while a fuel-efficient hybrid with 46 MPG produces about 0.06 pounds of carbon emissions per mile, the research group found.
These stats are far less damaging if you’re carpooling with others, as carbon impact is divided evenly amongst the number of passengers. But if you’re taking on the full impact of travel yourself, driving carries one of the heaviest environmental footprints.
That said, driving your hybrid alone edges out the average flight. But flying is typically better than road-tripping to your vacation destination when traveling alone in a car that gets less than 40 MPG.
When traveling solo, opt for public transportation whenever possible to reduce your carbon footprint. If you can only use public transportation for part of your trip, consider booking alternate transit anyway, and rent a fuel-efficient car for the rest of your journey. In most cases, it will save you money (and emissions, too!).
Note that the carbon footprint of car travel may vary based on the make and model of your vehicle and the distance of your journey. If it turns out that driving is indeed your best bet, use these tips from the Department of Energy to modify your driving habits to increase fuel efficiency.