How to have an Eco-friendly trip

Read time: 5 mins

It is summer time and people love to use this time to travel. But have you ever thought about green ways you can travel?

Air Travel

Many people travel by airplane, but have you ever thought about how traveling by airplane effects the environment? Take a look at the table below and see how much CO2 is released from flying.

Airline Travel Distance

CO2 Emission Factor (kg CO2/passenger-mile)

CH4 Emission Factor (g CH4/passenger-mile)

N2O Emission Factor (g N2O/passenger-mile)

Long Haul (_> 700 miles)




Medium Haul
(_> 300 and < 700 miles)




Short Haul (< 300 miles)




Distance Not Known





An airplane consumes large amounts of energy and carbon emissions by burning large amounts of toxic jet fuel. Jet fuel produces, carbon dioxide, NOx, sulphates, and particulate matter. Airplanes release all of these pollutants directly into the atmosphere; intensify the pollutants’ warming impact. The effects of all of these pollutants multiply the global warming impact of aviation, making aviation directly responsible for an estimated 5% of global climate pollution (

As soon as airplanes take off, they begin to produce large amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and cancer-causing toxics such as benzene and formaldehyde. The emissions from taxiing and takeoff make airports some of the largest sources of these pollutants and major public health hazards. The pollution travels miles downwind, contributing to asthma, lung and heart disease, and a large number of cancers (

In California, Los Angeles Airport is the largest source of NOx, a large contributor to the region’s smog, and it is the third largest source of carbon monoxide. Studies show even small increases in taxi time at airports in Southern California contribute to significant increases in asthma, respiratory ailments, and heart disease in surrounding communities (

According to, airplanes create large amounts of CO2, the most common manmade greenhouse gas. In addition to CO2, airplanes produce nitrogen oxides, known as NOx, which contribute to the creation of ozone, another greenhouse gas. Also emissions of NOx at high altitudes produce greater concentrations of ozone than ground-level emissions.

Therefore if you can avoid traveling by airplane, do it! However if you absolutely have to use an airplane try to book nonstop flights whenever possible because a large amount of plane’s carbon emissions come from takeoff and landing ( ). According to the website,, 50 percent of carbon emissions come from take off and landing. Therefore taking a nonstop flight is better for the environment because you take off and land, once.

Flying vs. Car

An alternative to traveling by plane is to travel by car. For instance, if you have to travel from NYC to DC traveling by car would be a great alternative. If you take a look at the table below traveling by car releases less CO2 than traveling by air. However, if you have to travel cross country, travel by air because with current high gas prices, it would cost more in fuel to drive clear across the United States in a car than to fly nonstop coast-to-coast (  

Vehicle Type

CO2 Emission Factor (kg CO2/vehicle-mile)

CH4 Emission Factor (g CH4/vehicle-mile)

N2O Emission Factor (g N2O/vehicle-mile)





Light-duty Truck





Travel by Train

Another alternative to air and car travel is train travel. An individual’s emissions from riding a train would be significantly lower. A cross-country train trip would generate about half the greenhouse-gas emissions of driving a car ( If you take a look at the table you can see traveling by train is great for the environment because it releases very small amounts of CO2

Rail System Type

CO2 Emission Factor (kg CO2/passenger-mile)

CH4 Emission Factor (g CH4/passenger-mile)

N2O Emission Factor (g N2O/passenger-mile)

Intercity Rail (e.g., Amtrak)




Commuter Rail




Transit Rail (e.g., Trams and Subways)




Travel Smart

If you have to travel by airplane take a nonstop flight because it saves the environment from a lot of carbon emissions. If you want to travel by car, be smart about it, take a road trip with friends. Also if you plan on taking a cross-country trip it would be better if you traveled by air or by train. After comparing air, car and train travel, train travel is the greenest. Therefore try to travel by train whenever possible.

Travel Green Tips

If you are traveling by air try to pack light because the heavier the plane, the more fuel it burns and the more toxic gases it releases into the atmosphere. Therefore try to stick to a carry-on only and this will also help you save money on airline baggage fees. Don’t throw away your money on travel-size toiletries that cost much more per ounce than the larger bottles you use at home. Instead, buy a set of empty travel-size bottles and fill them with your favorite shampoo, conditioner, sunblock and other products. It is much better for the environment if buy something you can reuse for multiple trips. If you need to rent a car, book a hybrid. It may cost a little more than a typical vehicle, but it is worth it because you end up saving a lot of money on gas. If you can’t rent a hybrid, rent the smallest car that's realistic for your needs, a compact car is typically cheaper and more fuel-efficient than a larger car ( Also before you leave for your trip, unplug any unnecessary appliances, such as, TVs, stereos, toasters, and microwaves. These items can still use energy in their off mode. Also set your thermostat and water heater at low settings so that energy isn't wasted while you are gone (






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