What’s More Green: How to Choose Green Transportation for Your Next Vacation
When the time comes to book your next vacation, it’s likely that the most eco conscious amongst you will consider the environmental impact of your transportation options. Everyone knows that it’s greener to take a short journey on your bicycle than it is to hop in your car, but what about your other lengthier travel options? What is the greenest way to travel across the Atlantic or across the country? You may well be surprised by the results:
The Environmental Impact of Flying
Flying has long been considered to be one of the most environmentally unsound forms of transportation. In fact, for most Americans, air travel is by far their largest environmental sin. One return flight from New York to Europe creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person.  If you live in a city where you don’t need a car and you don’t drive cross country very often, that means that your annual foreign vacation could be the deepest annual carbon footprint you make. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t take your annual vacation. If you have to fly then think about how you fly: first class seats may be more luxurious but they’re no friend to the environment. Because first class seats take up more space, they are responsible for generating twice as much carbon as a coach seat on a domestic flight.  Budget airlines with no first-class cabin can lower a plane’s per-person emissions 10 to 15%: saving money and the environment!
How Green is Cruising?
The cruise industry is working hard to reduce waste and carbon emissions and become more eco-friendly, but it still has a bad reputation for its lack of eco-credentials. Much of this bad reputation is undeserved. Cruising does release more carbon emissions than flying; According to Climate Care, a large cruise liner such as the Queen Mary II will emit approximately 0.43kg of CO2 per passenger mile, compared with 0.257kg for a long-haul flight.  What that statistic doesn’t take into account, of course, is the capacities of the vessels and that numbers can fluctuate massively depending on how many seats are booked on a flight. It’s also worth noting that, according to The Guardian, the Queen Mary II has a zero-discharge policy and that all cruise liners are now required to meet stringent environmental targets. When evaluating the environmental impact of a form of transport, it is also important to consider how much CO2 it emits. Fuel is a key economic and environmental issue for cruise lines, particularly as cruise liners travel more slowly than airplanes, meaning they need to carry more fuel. However some cruise liners, such as Celebrity Cruises, have installed solar panels on their decks whilst others, such as Disney Cruise Liners, use their waste cooking oil as fuel. It is clear then that whilst emissions from the cruise industry might be large, work is underway to reduce these figures.
Shared Travel Options
If you’re travelling across country and you aren’t in any particular rush then, by far, the greenest travel option available to you is shared ground travel; either by train or coach. Trains are often overlooked in favor of planes, but they are a fantastic way to travel, especially if you want to see lots of smaller countries in one trip. The InterRail system in Europe, for example, is both one of the most cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to travel across Europe.  Don’t dismiss train or coach travel as slow or difficult; think of all the incredible local landscapes and scenery you’ll be able to see that you might otherwise miss if you were flying thousands of miles in the air.
Ultimately, however you choose to travel will produce a certain amount of carbon emissions. There is no such thing as carbon neutral long haul transportation at this point. The short term solution for the eco-conscious is to offset any emissions generated by your trip: there are several companies that can do this for you, and offsetting is the most cost-effective and economically-efficient way to reduce your C02 emissions.  Climate change can only be reversed if every single individual reduces their CO2 emissions as much as possible and then offsets the remaining unavoidable emissions: something to bear in mind when you book your next vacation.
Written & Contributed by Susan Miles.
1 “Your biggest carbon sin may be air travel”, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/sunday-review/the-biggest-carbon-sin-air-travel.html?_r=0
2 “What’s the greenest way to travel?”, USA Today, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/travel/news/2009-05-14-green-transportation_N.htm
3 “How responsible are cruise liners?”, Responsible Travel, http://www.responsibletravel.com/copy/how-responsible-are-cruise-liners
4 “Eco Friendly ways to travel”, Living Green Magazine, http://livinggreenmag.com/2013/05/10/lifestyle-choices/eco-friendly-ways-to-travel/
5 “Carbon offsetting and carbon neutrality”, Carbon Footprint, http://www.carbonfootprint.com/carbonoffset.html