It's no secret that many people often prefer to drive or fly long-distance. What is not acknowledged enough is the negative impact these modes of transportation have on our environment. While flying seems like the obvious choice for traveling extra-long distances, if you have the time, you may want to consider the train or bus the next time you plan a getaway. These alternatives can be beneficial for both you and the planet.
To help illustrate the impact of our transportation decisions, we measured the carbon footprint of a single traveler taking a one-way trip via four of the most popular forms of transportation: bus, train, airplane, and car. Using CarbonFund.org's calculator, we approximated a traveler's carbon footprint over one of the most popular short-distance routes in the country: New York to Boston.
It's important to point out the extra harmful role that air travel can have on our environment. Water vapor is emitted from aircrafts in flight, creating man-made clouds, called contrails. This increase in global cloud cover causes an imbalance of sunlight absorbed and sunlight reflected by the Earth, which has a net positive warming factor of 2.7. We've added on the impact of this occurrence, called radiative forcing, to the actual carbon emissions produced from burning jet fuel alone.
New York to Boston (215 miles)*
Bus ($17.34, as low as $1): 28.66 lbs of CO2
Train ($96.06, as low as $49): 70.55 lbs of CO2
Car ($24.11): 160.94 lbs of CO2
Airplane ($69): 105.82 lbs of CO2, 284.4 lbs with radiative forcing
From our calculations, it's clear that traveling by bus from New York to Boston notably reduces your carbon footprint compared to flying, especially when taking radiative forcing into account. While it may take you longer to get there via bus, Mother Nature will certainly thank you for it. Airplanes traveling this route emit almost 10 times more CO2, which would take one tree in Central Park two years to offset. Additionally, you can score seriously cheap bus fare instead of spending all your money on gas or airline tickets. And while riding a train from New York and Boston might not reduce your emissions as much as taking a bus, it's still an environmentally-friendlier option than flying or driving alone!
*Results from traveling by car were based on fuel efficiency for a 2016 Honda Accord, 26 MPG, 2.5 L 6 Cyl. with an automatic transmission. Bus and train prices are based on the average fares for each route found on Wanderu over a 30-day period. Car costs are based on the national average price for regular gas on June 15, 208, as reported by AAA, at a standard 26 MPG. Air travel costs are based on average one-way airfare, as reposted by FareCompare.
Wanderu is the simplest way to book bus and train travel. Either online a Wanderu.com or through the free Wanderu app for iOS and Android, travelers can find, compare and book tickets for the most convenient and cost-effective itineraries across numerous bus and train lines in North America and Europe.