No one wants to give up a vacation, yet one getaway can completely undo a family’s eco-friendly transportation efforts for an entire year. So how can you travel and have fun while still being green? These simple tips will help you lower your environmental impact through transportation, which accounts for almost 30% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions annually.

One vacation, which includes air travel for a family of four, can create more global warming pollution in one week than an entire year of weekday commuting, according to the Getting There Greeener Guide by the Union of Concerned Scientists

under the pier
Image courtesy of Laura Cooper.

How can a family vacation generate so much waste? It’s all dependent on transportation choices.

It’s not so easy as to simply refuse to fly, though. In fact, sometimes taking an airplane to a destination is still more efficient than driving a typical car.

Here’s the deal: The Union of Concerned Scientists calculated the carbon dioxide emissions of every form of land-based travel, based on whether the travel was 100, 500 or more than 1,000 miles, as well as calculating based on how many people are traveling.

In every single instance, no matter what the distance or how many people were traveling, taking a motor coach had the least environmental impact. For example, a couple taking a motor coach compared to driving a hybrid car will cut their carbon use by almost half. Yet taking three days to get across the country might not be appealing to you.

The next best alternative for a family of four on vacation? Surprisingly, it’s the old-fashioned road trip by car that will lower your carbon dioxide emissions compared to other modes of transportation. Driving a typical car (with an average fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon), is still better than taking a train.

Even more shocking is that driving an SUV (with a fuel economy of 18 mpg) creates less carbon dioxide emissions than the same family of four taking the train.

Feature image courtesy of Nacho Rascón.

What about a couple’s getaway, though? For two travelers, the greener methods of transportation change. The second best form of eco-friendly transportation (after a motor coach) for two is taking the train for distances up to 1,000 miles. Longer distances score a smaller carbon footprint by flying economy. The same is true for single travelers.

The places you want to get to aren’t always on the transportation routes of motor coaches or trains. So what if you’ve got to drive or fly? How can you still reduce your carbon dioxide emissions while traveling to see grandma?

If you don’t own a fuel-efficient vehicle, rent one. A hybrid, such as a Toyota Prius, has four times less carbon dioxide emissions than an inefficient SUV.

Avoid times when you’ll be stuck in congestion. Don’t head out for the weekend at 5 p.m. Wait for an hour or so and head into traffic when you won’t be idling as much to cut your fuel consumption in almost half.

Fly economy class. Not only will it save you money, but you’ll use half of the amount of carbon as someone in first class.

Choose direct flights without any layovers. If you can’t fly nonstop, choose a flight with the least amount of connections. It’s the takeoff, landing, and ground support on the tarmac that use up the greatest amount of carbon.

Source: Blog
Feature image courtesy of Kira Laktionov

By Kimberly Button

Kimberly Button is the author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home and the Editor-in-Chief of GetGreenBeWell , featuring modern, sane ideas for living a non-toxic life. A professional journalist for nearly two decades, Button has written for magazines such as Martha Stewart's Whole Living, American Airlines, AAA, Sierra, National Geographic Traveler, and Vegetarian Times. Visit for more information.