How Habitual Travelers Can Offset Their Impact


Earth911’s “Ask The Editor” series tackles your toughest environmental and recycling dilemmas.

Q: The impact of types of travel, especially planes and boats, seems to be a little understood area, and how can we reduce our imprint if we are paying passengers? – @Tammi Truaxthe

A: Some of the staffers here at Earth911 have to travel a lot, whether they’re covering major green events or promoting our super-cool recycling database.

Photo: Flickr/joiseyshowaa

A round-trip flight from Los Angeles to New York City represents 1,780 pounds of CO2 emissions, you can imagine the carbon footprint. Photo: Flickr/joiseyshowaa

Our leisure travel by car alone accounts for more than 9 billion gallons of fuel and 90 millions tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. Air travel tacks on another 140+ million tons of CO2.

While we know reducing your impact starts by reducing your emissions, sometimes planes, trains and automobiles are just unavoidable.

When we travel, we like to keep in mind the daily eco-habits we already practice, such as recycling and energy-saving tips.

But we’ve also found that, when purchasing your plane ticket, forking over the extra couple of bucks to offset your emissions can go a long way. Several airlines will offer this option and apply your dollars to investing in renewable energy or other green efforts.

But reducing your impact doesn’t stop at carbon emissions. Think about how much waste you go through on an average flight – food wrappers, soda and beer cans, disposable headphones, newspapers and magazines.

Other than the headphones and wrappers, it can all be recycled, and chances are your airport has recycling bins. You can also bring your own headphones and packed lunch, or tuck your newspaper into the seat in front of you for the next passenger to read.

And don’t forget about ground transportation once you reach your destination. Light rails, buses, subways and the like are easy ways to avoid crowded parking lots and cut down your footprint. In fact, a 10 percent increase in transit ridership nationwide would save 135 million gallons of gasoline a year.

Got a question? E-mail the editor at or send us a message via Facebook or Twitter.

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