Transportation is a major source of carbon emissions and air pollution. In the U.S., transportation accounts for the highest percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions at 29%, exceeding the electricity and industry sectors. Looking beyond carbon, smog and soot pollution from transportation is also a leading cause of health problems. As individuals there are plenty of choices we can make to reduce pollution from our traveling. 

Choosing the way you travel

There is no single most eco-friendly transportation. The average carbon footprint of a vehicle depends on many factors such as vehicle type, model, distance, number of people sharing the vehicle, etc. So we can’t say that driving is always better for the environment than flying – a long distance flight on a large commercial plane with a lot of passengers might be more energy efficient than a 5-minute drive alone. 

Whether cars are more efficient than planes depend on many factors

That being said, there are some general tips for more eco-friendly transportation:

  • For short distances, walking or biking is certainly better than driving. 
  • Public transportation like buses and subways is almost always better than driving because there are more people sharing the vehicle. 
  • Over long distances, trains typically have the lowest carbon footprint per person, especially if it is electric. The next best option is buses, followed by driving a full car. 
  • If flying is the only option, there are still many ways to reduce carbon emissions. For example, choose larger airlines and planes over smaller and private ones to reduce carbon footprint per person. Moreover, taking off accounts for a large portion of energy consumed during a flight, so it’d be helpful to reduce the number of layovers and replace shorter flights with driving or bus rides. 
  • To learn more about eco-friendly travel options around Middlebury, check out our previous blog post

Drive wise

The way you drive also affects the amount of fuel usage and pollution! Here are some good driving habits that can help you save gas AND help the environment:

  • Go easy on the gas pedal and brakes. Rapid acceleration and braking can waste a significant amount of gas. 
  • Observe the speed limit. At speeds above 50 mph, gas mileage typically decreases rapidly. 
  • Avoid hauling cargo on your roof. This increases wind resistance and reduces fuel economy. 
  • Remove unnecessary items from your car. Excess weight on the car lowers fuel economy as well. 
  • Maintain your car regularly so that it can run at its highest energy efficiency.