Sustainable Tips for Holiday Travel

During the holidays, many people head home to visit family and friends, which often involves interstate (or even cross-country travel). Whether you are driving across town or flying across the country, Climate Classes has some tips for reducing your carbon footprint when you travel.

Consider Taking the Train or Bus. Train and bus travel use less carbon than driving or flying. Amtrak has frequent service for much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region. (Bonus: the Amtrak Northeast Regional is fully electric from Washington, D.C. to Boston.) Bus travel may also be a good alternative for shorter trips.

When Driving:

  • Inflate your tires to the recommended pressure for your vehicle and tires themselves. You can find this measurement on the inner frame of the front driver-side car door or in the manual for your vehicle. (Be aware that over-inflating tires can also make the tread on your tires wear unevenly.) Winter is a great time to check your tire pressure, as tires can leak and tire pressure is reduced during cold weather. Inflating your tires to slightly above the recommended tire pressure will improve handling and increase fuel economy (and reduce carbon emissions). 
  • Check your engine fluids before leaving on a longer trip, and top up your windshield washer fluid, in case you encounter bad weather. Engine fluids include engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and brake fluid. The locations of each fluid reservoir and capacities for your vehicle can be found in the owner’s manual. Keeping your car well-maintained will mean safer and more efficient winter travel.
  • When driving, accelerating and braking slowly (when it is possible to do safely) will improve fuel economy. Avoiding speeding and keeping your AC turned off will also improve fuel economy on a long trip.

When Flying: Aviation often accounts for our largest individual carbon footprints, but there are ways to mitigate this.

  • Try to book direct flights. Direct flights generally reduce your carbon impact, as much of the fuel used for aviation is spent during the initial ascent from the runway to cruising altitude (~35,000 ft). Service vehicles at an airport (e.g. baggage loading and re-fueling trucks) also contribute to this added carbon footprint. 
  • If possible, avoid flying on regional jets. Avoiding regional jets (often operated by smaller regional airlines) can also reduce carbon, as smaller planes have a higher carbon footprint per passenger. 
  • Calculate your carbon footprint before traveling. Airlines often include carbon calculators so you can estimate your carbon footprint from traveling, which you can then use to purchase carbon offsets. Many travel sites, such as Kayak, now have features that help you to compare different flight itineraries to lower your carbon impact:
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