Green Travel

We've all pretty much accepted that I am an eco-geek, sometimes to an annoying degree, right? So it shouldn't be a surprise that I put a lot of thought into the environmental impact of my travels*. I addressed the issue, albeit novicely, back when I got back from Asia (remember?). Well since then, I've done more reading on the subject. This is the conclusion I've come to.

Calculating the impact of travel on the environment is hard. Do you measure the impact in CO2, which is ever so popular these days, or do you focus more on what type of fuel is being used and the impact of how we obtain that fuel? How does infrastructure play in? (ex: Building roads and rail lines across long distances can really gnarl up the landscape while planes just require a place to take off and land at each end.) What role does/should capacity play? (ex: If the plane I fly on is 1/4 full vs. totally full, my passenger miles per gallon are extremely different, with me having no control of that.) Even within a give style of transportation, there are huge variations that make generalizing towards a usable rule difficult. (ex: Turboprop planes, which are often used for short commuter flights, are way more fuel efficient than their jet engine cousins. And diesel trains belch more particulate matter per mile than electric trains.)

This graphic (and an expanded version over at their site) does a great job of summing up a general rule when thinking about travel: in order of most to least harmful goes traveling solo by car, flying, traveling via mass transit (train, carpooling, bus), non-motorized travel (walking/biking), followed up by not traveling*. While is isn't a hard fast rule, it is helpful for a quick sanity check.

The impact of all this for me is complicated, and I won't get into it too much. Sufficient to say, I take this all into consideration and I try to make responsible decisions. I try not to travel frivolously*, I try to fly less, and I actively seek out mass transit options. And I try to encourage awareness without being too much of a jerk about it. I hope I somewhat succeeded.

P.S. Happy Earth Day!
Tuesday April 22 2008File under: environment, travel

Toggle Comments (4)comment?
on Tue 22nd Apr, 2008 02:41 pm PDT magdelena said:
is carpooling really 'mass transit'? and just a thought to add - according to John Tesh radio yesterday, you are most likely to die or be injured while traveling by bike or on foot....the safest bet is the bus.
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on Tue 22nd Apr, 2008 09:03 pm PDT per said:
uhm, guns don't kill people, I kill people.Happy Planet-is-Doomed day. Peace in the Middle East!
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on Wed 23rd Apr, 2008 05:11 pm PDT Sean said:
The chart seems to be missing a column for the damage caused by gas station food induced farts.
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on Thu 24th Apr, 2008 02:25 pm PDT mandy said:
where are the tiny amounts of CO2 coming from in the "walking" and "extra passenger" categories? breathing?
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