Many of us are trying to live greener lives these days … but when it comes to your family vacation, how green is your travel planning?
All year, you dutifully recycle your glass, paper, and plastic. You carpool to work, and your spouse drives a hybrid. You’ve even replaced your incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient CFLs.
Good for you.
Now, you’re planning a well-deserved family vacation to the Grand Canyon. You’ll fly in to the Phoenix airport, pick up your rental SUV, and take a leisurely scenic drive through Sedona to the canyon’s South Rim. You’ll arrive in time for a breathtaking helicopter tour of the entire Grand Canyon at sunset. All in all, it promises to be a perfect first day.
There’s just one thing: After one glorious week’s vacation with your family of four, a year’s worth of earnest efforts to save the planet will have gone up in a puff of greenhouse gas.
It’s true. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) did the math and calculated that one Bigfoot-sized vacation could leave a carbon footprint 1.5 times larger than the one your family leaves in a year. A whole year.
In a 2008 study, the UCS compared travel options for an individual, a couple, and a family of four traveling 100, 500, and 1,000 miles. The researchers ranked various travel options (flying first class, flying economy, driving an SUV, driving a car, taking a train, and taking a motor coach) from “best” to “worst.”
In every case, motorcoach travel ranked “best.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation seems to agree. Its Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that buses use 797 BTUs per passenger mile compared to 4847 per passenger mile for airplanes, 2450 for trains, and 3639 for automobiles. Depending on how far you travel, riding the bus generates 55 to 75 percent less global warming pollution per passenger than flying.
Likewise, the American Bus Association commissioned a 2007 study that compared 12 modes of transportation – adding car and van pools, ferry boats, and mass transit to the usual options – and found that motor coaches use the least amount of energy and produce the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per passenger mile of any other mode.
Motorcoaches are one of America’s best-kept travel secrets. Now we know that not only are they safe, reliable, convenient, and affordable … they are also green.
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