Green Travel: Getting There Green

Rising fuel costs and ubiquitous discussions on global climate change have brought the “green” movement to the forefront of our attention in recent years. The travel industry hasn’t been immune to this phenomenon either, as ecotourism and green travel have become all the rage, as travelers have looked to lessen their impact on the environment, while still visiting all the places that interest them. For the most part, the green movement in travel has been focused on the activities that we take part in once we reach our destination, with an emphasis on those activities being ecologically friendly. But what about the methods of travel we use to reach those destinations? What is their impact on the environment?

That’s exactly what the Union of Concerned Scientists have been wondering as well, and they have conducted the first in depth study on that very topic. The findings of that study can be found on their Getting Their Greener website, where you’ll find the reports on the most and least ecologically friendly methods of travel.

When conducting the study, the research scientists involved looked at three important variables, including the type of vehicle used, the distance traveled, and the number of people sharing that vehicle. The results can be found in the full report and this handy quick reference guide, which breaks down the best travel options for the travelers going solo, in pairs, or as a family of four across distances of 100 miles, 500 miles, and 1000+ miles.As you can probably guess, air travel doesn’t fare well in the study, especially at the shorter distances, although flying economy class does rank as the second best choice when traveling a thousand miles or more. On the other hand, driving a “typical car” or a “typical SUV” is rated well in the 100 and 500 mile categories, and even further for a family, but falls off dramatically for solo travelers and couples.

So what gets the nod for the best overall method of travel for the lowest impact on the environment? Taking the motor coach (or bus) ranks as the top option for all categories and distances. And the worst? While not quite a clear cut, it seems flying first class ranks at the bottom of the green travel list.

This is definitely an interesting study, and one that makes you stop and think about what method of transportation is best when traveling. Of course, you are sometimes limited in your options, as last time I checked, there were no motor coaches to Europe. Still, as responsible travelers, it’s important to weigh all are options, and make an informed choice that is both good for the environment, and right for our pocket books.