Insights · June 21st, 2007

Ahh, the first day of summer – it’s time for weekends at the lake, cross-country road trips. . . and, well, hurricanes and typhoons. It’s a fitting time to think about transportation and climate change.

We all know we should carpool, walk to the grocery store, and maybe even buy a shiny new Prius. These are simple, everyday ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. And they are crucial for the future of our Earth.

But what about big-ticket climate offenders, like air travel and long road trips? Are we cancelling out our everyday mindfulness with a week in Hawaii, or a trip to Yellowstone?

I recently checked out my own carbon emissions at TerraPass, a popular carbon offset retailer. Basically, organizations like TerraPass help you figure out how much greenhouse gas you’re emitting each year, and then recommend how much money you should contribute to clean energy providers to offset your emissions.

Taking the bus, walking, and telecommuting keeps my car’s mileage pretty reasonable – about 200 miles per week. According to TerraPass, that would make my yearly carbon footprint below average, at 7,500 pounds of carbon per year.

But it turns out I’m a carbon-binger. It’s kind of like I’ve been enjoying salad greens and tofu all day, and then I help myself four gallons of ice cream, three pies, and couple dozen brownies for dessert . . . except our climate bears the brunt of my overindulgence.

Here’s the dirty truth: I take several flights a year, and in the summertime, I don’t hesitate to drive a few hours for a terrific hike. And when I add in my big-ticket travel, my everyday driving habits are suddenly a 7,500 pound drop in a 25,000 pound bucket of stinky carbon.

You may be an unknowing carbon-binger, too. Just one round-trip flight from New York to Tokyo means adding 5,000 pounds of carbon to our atmosphere, per passenger!

So what can we do this summer travel season to reduce our big-ticket carbon emissions? Here’s are some tips:

• Try out rideshare programs (such as Craig’s List‘s rideshare section, and for longer drives – for example, if you’re driving a few hours to visit family or for a regional business trip. The bonus is sharing fuel costs.

• With plenty of discount airlines now available, it’s tempting to jet around an entire continent for three weeks. Consider spending more time in fewer destinations, and really get to know a place.

• Avoid those impulsive long weekends in Vegas. Quick, domestic flights of 500 to 1,000 miles one-way add about 800 pounds of carbon per passenger. Flying is cheap and tempting, but it’s awfully bad for our Earth.

• Select your destinations carefully. Flying from Los Angeles to Hawai’i adds 2,000 pounds of carbon, while flying from Los Angeles to France adds a whopping 4,400 pounds of carbon per passenger. Choose a closer, equally enticing destination.

• Take ferries, trains, and long-distance buses. All three are generally more fuel-efficient than planes and cars.

• When you travel, do it green – New American Dream is a great resouce for green travel.

• Enjoy travel in moderation. There are likely many exciting things to do close to your home. And, when you decide to indulge, purchase carbon offsets to invest in clean energy.

Check out these carbon footprint calculators and carbon offset retailers… and help keep our climate healthy for many summers to come.

Writer: Catherine Otten was a Program Manager and Administrator for in 2007 and again in 2010-2011. We lost her to cancer in 2016. An avid outdoors woman and mountain climber, Catherine was especially passionate about the environment.

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Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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