Despite the high cost of fuel and invasive TSA tactics, the average distance traveled by Americans this Thanksgiving holiday is expected to be 816 miles.
AAA expects 42 million people to travel for the holiday, an increase of 11 percent over last year.
While it’s great to reconnect with family and friends (or to get some much-needed time away from them), all this travel means an increased amount of pollutants in the atmosphere.
Even though you might not be able to avoid holiday travel altogther, there are simple ways to reduce your Thanksgiving travel carbon footprint.
1. Don’t Travel
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Thanksgiving, and they don’t all have to involve you and your extended family crammed around a crowded dinner table. Consider staying home to enjoy good food and a sense of gratitude with only your immediate family or some close friends. You might also consider volunteering your time to a local homeless shelter or food bank that’s working to bring cheer to those less fortunate.
2. Meet In The Middle
If possible, choose a centralized location for your family get-together. Over 90 percent of all holiday travel is made by car, and because very gallon of gasoline burned releases 20 pounds of CO2, this has a big impact on air quality. Choosing a destination (even if it’s not Grandma’s house) that keeps mileage low for all guests will help reduce demand for gas, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution. Since gas prices are always their higest the week of Thanksgiving, using a central location will also reduce travel costs.
3. Forget The Plane and Take A Train
When there’s no way to avoid long-distance travel, booking a flight might seem like the most economical option, but it’s hardly eco-friendly. Traveling by train (preferably high-speed rail) creates fewer emissions per passenger than traveling alone in a car or taking a plane. Amtrak, which operates most of the limited train service across the US, estimates the carbon emissions per passenger mile when traveling by plane is .48 kg compared to only .21 kg when traveling by train. You’ll also avoid long lines and boring layovers.
4. Offset Your Trip
If the car’s already packed or the plane tickets booked, you can still help to mitigate the harmful effects of your holiday travel by purchasing carbon offsets. These “credits” are a way to contribute funds to carbon-cutting projects, like wind farms, biomass ventures, and reforestation efforts. Independent organizations, such as TerraPass, and Carbonfund.org offer convenient calculators for estimating the carbon offsets needed for both plane and car travel.
Got other suggestions for reducing the impact of holiday travel? Share them in a comment!
Image Credit: Flickr - geishaboy500