Holiday Travel: The Greenest Way to Get There

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Driving solo

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 0.60 pounds per mile, the research group found.

These stats are far less damaging if you’re carpooling with others, as carbon impact is divided evenly among the number of passengers. But if you’re taking on the full impact of holiday 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 holiday destination when traveling by yourself in a car that gets less than 40 MPG.

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Holiday Tips

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!).

If you prefer to drive, consider filling some of the empty seats in your car with a ridesharing service such as Zimride or Carpooling.com. Both online marketplaces allow you to sell empty seats in your car to passengers looking for a ride – making it easy and cost-effective to cut the carbon impact of your trip.

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Mary Mazzoni
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