Thanksgiving is the longstanding busiest travel day of the year, and AAA estimates that nearly 42.2 million people will venture more than 50 miles from home for family gatherings this year. Tons of CO2 is released into the atmosphere.
Luckily, several eco blogs have published tips to help those concerned lessen their carbon footprint. It comes down to this: If you travel, travel smarter. Use public transportation whenever possible, fly an airline that has environmental policies in place, or choose a central location for your feast.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says that 91 percent of long distance travel during the Thanksgiving holiday is by car. Each gallon of gas burned contributes approximately 5.5 pounds of carbon - so sharing a ride could really help cut the pollution.
The carbon emission per passenger mile on a train is .21 kg, while an airplane is .48 kg, according to Amtrak. The American Bus Association found that a motor coach generates .056 of carbon emissions per passenger mile (credit to the Green Your blog for assembling these factoids).
One pound is equivalent to 0.45 kilograms, so 5.5 lbs is 2.5 kg. The weighted averages for train, airplane, and bus travel, travel are 0.5 lbs, 1.1 lbs, and 0.1 lbs, respectively.
I will be traveling to my mother’s by train this year, because I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by New York’s mammoth public transportation system. Understandably, not everyone has it as easy (if you count rushing through crowds down stairs at Penn Station as being easy).
The alternatives are to buy carbon offsets for your travel, remember to pack light, and be mindful of what you are serving your guests. Carbonfund.org, GreenLife, and TerraPass all sell CO2 offsets for trips by car or plane.