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Eco-Friendly Travel Options

"One Vacation Can Be Worse Than Commuting for a Year."

So reads a troubling headline of a study released last week by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit organization that's been doing research into which modes of vacation transport are the most environmentally-friendly.

The full report, "Getting There Greener: The Guide to Your Lower-Carbon Vacation," which is more than 50 pages long, reveals that the mode of transport with the smallest carbon footprint is the motor coach. We were a lot more excited about that before discovering that motor coach is just a fancy term for bus.

Which isn't to say we weren't impressed. Says the study: "A couple traveling on a motor coach will generate nearly 50 percent less global warming pollution than they would driving a fuel-efficient hybrid car," not to mention 55 to 75 percent less than they would by flying. Plus, bus travel is getting nicer all the time -- right? -- what with all the new companies offering Wi-Fi and other perks on some routes.

On the downside, it's still the bus.

Another thing to keep in mind when planning a green vacation: the number of travelers in your group. For parties of one or two, taking a nonstop coach flight is nearly always greener than driving (first-class seats take up twice as much room as those in coach, and are therefore responsible for twice the carbon emissions.) Then again, a family of four would better serve the planet by driving than flying, especially if they take the study's advice and rent a hybrid or other fuel-efficient automobile. And for couples traveling 500 miles or less, taking the train is almost always the next best option after the bus, especially here on the East Coast.

Just don't be like the "Elsens", an Orlando-bound (hypothetical) family of four from Chicago who the study imagines "pull out all the stops for their first trip to Disneyworld and use frequent flyer miles to travel first-class," changing planes in Houston. That one vacation, according to the UCS, creates one-and-a-half times more pollution than a year's worth of commuting from home to work.

After these revelations, how likely are you to take this study into account next time you plan a vacation?

By Christina Talcott |  December 11, 2008; 12:41 PM ET  | Category:  Air Travel , Bus Travel , Family Travel , In the News , Travel Logistics , Travel Strategies
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OOoo!! I'll start the bidding with "none."

Posted by: byte1 | December 11, 2008 1:21 PM

Wow! Take the train! I'd never thought of that before....

...except I moved to Western Wisconsin, and I have to drive two hours to the nearest train station, and then if I want to go anywhere, I have to layover in Chicago. Depending on the destination, I sometimes have to stay overnight at a hotel (or just take the six hour drive to Chicago and pick up the train there, but to catch the train, I still will probably drive and stay overnight to give myself a traffic buffer for Chicagoland travel).

Did the study take the hideous inefficiency of the US infrastructure into account?

I mean, I'm a concerned scientist myself but taking people to task for using the system we have to use is a little counterproductive.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 11, 2008 6:05 PM

Oh yeah - and a non-stop flight. Isn't that a quaint idea. There seem to be fewer and fewer of those these days. And I love the tip about asking to make sure you fly in a more efficient plane - as if we have any say so on that for some routes.

I get what the study is trying to say, but c'mon. It's closing the barn door after the horses are gone.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 11, 2008 6:30 PM

I'll take my carbon footprint into account when you folks change the name to the Don't Travel Section

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | December 17, 2008 4:31 PM

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