For many of us, travel is a fact of life during the holidays, and with a bit of planning, you can make sure your holiday travel plans are a little bit better for the planet.
Over at Earth and Industry, Tim wrote about a couple of airlines that are starting to use algae-based biofuels in their planes. As biofuels begin to catch on in the airline industry, it's going to make a huge dent in the transportation sector's carbon footprint.
United Airlines is planning to have 75 regular flights using a biofuel blend in their planes. That's a lot of flights, but it's also only a fraction of the planes in the air. For now, skipping the plane is usually the greener option, if you can swing it.
Take the Train
Confession: I am train obsessed. When my best friend and I headed out west last year to visit folks in LA and San Francisco, one of the top adventures on my list was taking the Coast Starlight, Amtrak's legendary train between the cities. The train takes longer, but I like to think of it as part of the journey. You can relax, take off your shoes, have a cocktail (or several!), and unwind on the way to your holiday shindigs. When you're weighing the time for a train ride against flying, don't forget to include the wait at the airport. You can walk into a train station and saunter right onto a train - no security checkpoints or naked scanners!
Over the holidays, my husband and I travel from Atlanta to Florida, and I've looked high and low for a reasonable train schedule. Unfortunately, it would take 36 hours to go from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale or Orlando, because we would have to go via Washington DC. That's really out of the question, but we have taken the train between visiting my family in south Florida and Dave's family in central Florida. It only takes slightly longer than driving, and it's so much more relaxing!
The key with the train is research. Here in the U.S., it's not always the quickest, because our national rail options are frankly the pits. To see if the train will work for you, I'd recommend just starting with Amtrak's website and also looking at any state transit systems to see if anything is a good fit.
If you own a hybrid or an electric car, driving is probably the greenest way to go for the holidays. Don't own a hybrid? You can rent one! Renting a car for your road trip keeps the mileage off of your family car, and you can rent something that gets better gas mileage. Hybrids are sometimes a bit pricier to rent, but the lower cost on gas will often help make up for at least some of the difference.
I know, the bus is not the most glamorous way to travel, but it's cheaper than driving, and companies like Greyhound often offer more options in terms of routes than trains do. Like the train, you don't have to worry about security lines, and you can relax while someone else takes care of the driving.
Location, Location, Location
When you're talking to the family about where to congregate for the holidays, pull out the map! If most of you have to travel across the country to visit with one relative, consider moving the festivities this year to a more central location, where everyone travels the shortest distance. The idea is to reduce the total miles that your family travels as a whole.
It's not always easy to coordinate holiday travel, and the environment is probably not the first thing on your mind. The great thing about more eco-friendly travel options is that they're often less expensive, too. Have you guys done anything to green up your travel plans over the holidays?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by theogeo