Eco-Friendly Travel In A Modern World
If I haven’t told you lately – thanks for being here. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you tuning in weekly and sharing the podcast with your friends. Be sure to text a friend and tell them about the show – so we can continue growing our sustainable living community.
This month, our focus will be on adopting the habit of Eco-friendly travel.
Personally, I LOVE to travel. Seeing new places, incredible scenery, new cultures, new people, new food – it’s all a rush of excitement and gratitude for being on this crazy beautiful planet.
But it’s no secret that traveling, whether it’s to run an errand or to make our way to another country, has a significant impact on the planet. The truth is – it’s necessary. Getting our errands done, going to work, and seeing the world – they’re all important things that drive our modern society. However, we can travel in a more eco-friendly way that reduces our impacts on the environment and encourages companies to innovate so that it is easy for everyone to make more thoughtful green choices and do the things they need and want.
First, Let’s look at a few impacts of travel on our environment so we can start to build a picture of why it is so important.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The primary source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is transportation. The EPA says, “Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel for our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes. Over 90% of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum-based, which includes primarily gasoline and diesel.”
Since the production of the Ford Model T in 1908, the everyday American has been able to enjoy the wonders of the automobile. It seemed this was able to enhance the quality of life in rural and urban areas, but with the rapid growth of the vehicle and minimal knowledge of what we were doing to the environment – we started to take more frequent and longer trips and people started buying more than one car per household, and we began to pour harmful emissions into the air all while creating more congestion of our urban areas.
Before the pandemic, about 85% of America’s workforce commuted to work, and the time for commuting had reached all-time highs. Averaging around 28 mins one way, people have reduced commuting efficiency – or their job-housing proximity.
And it’s not just commuting – everyday travel contributes to our overall environmental impact as well. Again, the EPA reports that “A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This assumes the average gasoline vehicle on the road today has a fuel economy of about 22.0 miles per gallon and drives around 11,500 miles per year. Every gallon of gasoline burned creates about 8,887 grams of CO2.
Around the same time as the rise of the American Car, in 1914, the world’s first scheduled passenger airline flight took place from St. Petersburg, FL, and landed at its destination in Tampa, FL, about 17 miles away. As we know it, that distance has since grown immensely – giving us the capability to travel around the world.
The FAA reports that as of 2020 they handle almost 16.5 million flights per year, with 10 million of those being scheduled passenger flights. And that’s just in the US alone!
And the impacts of air travel are much higher than traveling by car. The David Suzuki Foundation says, “The total carbon impact of a single flight is so high that avoiding just one trip can be equivalent to going (gasoline) car-free for a year.”
So these greenhouse gas emissions from travel contribute to climate change—a real and immediate problem. But our travel also creates these same direct threats to our health. The health of the planet and our health are inextricably linked.
Outdoors.Org says, “Every time you drive a gasoline-powered car, several chemicals are released into the air from the combustion of the fuel, including pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx gases), particulate matter (PM), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—as well as greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane.”
You might know this mixture as smog. Smog triggers health problems like coughing and difficulty breathing to more severe effects like aggravated asthma, reduced lung capacity, and increased susceptibility to illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis.
Another aspect of this is the underlying effects. When we are traveling we tend to sleep less, which we know is how our body restores itself every night. And stress levels are always high. I’ll say I do not get road rage, but I even get stressed from traffic while I’m in it. The same can be said for air travel. How many of you get stressed from the packing of a trip to going through the security lines, to finally making it onto and off of the plane? Long-term stressors like this can lead to heart problems.
And finally, we can consider the impact of resources used when traveling.
If you haven’t done the mental math – that 90% of petroleum-based fuel creates a problem with our nonrenewable natural resources. As it stands, this means at our current consumption levels; we have about 47 years of oil left.
There are other resources that go into the manufacturing of so many vehicles, airplanes, and different ways to travel as well. It kind of blows my mind when I’m out because I’ve started to notice how many car lots are in my city, and they are just filled to the brim with all kinds of new vehicles, and then just around the corner are used car lots and junkyards with the same effect. It doesn’t really make sense to me why we don’t prioritize reusing the old to create something new.
And then think about what goes into travel. Single-use items, to-go bags, and boxes, buying things we don’t need because we didn’t plan it out (I’m calling old Lena out on that one!)
At the end of the day, there’s not a one solution fix all to this problem. Without the ability to travel, we lose our sense of connection, community, and freedom. However, corporations don’t widely support eco-friendly travel with their products and practices, and the trajectory we are on is not looking good. We need to call for the change, and it can start with being more mindful of how and when we are traveling while voicing our opinions so that we can all make less of an impact on the planet.
We will go into more detail on some ways you can travel eco-friendly this month, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Choose public transportation when possible.
- Bike or walk to your location
- Drive efficiently or go all-electric or hybrid
- Avoid flying or only do it when it’s necessary, and try to stay at the location for a more extended period of time
- Be smart about planning any travel you do so it is as efficient and eco-friendly as possible.
This will help all of us to lower carbon emissions, reduce costs, improve our health, and make us, and the earth, a little happier in the process!
Something to grow on
For this week’s Something To Grow On, I want you to try to track your travel during the week.
- How many miles did you drive?
- How many trips did you make?
- How much money did you spend?
- How much time did it take?
- Was there anything else you noticed?
The first step towards any solution is always awareness. Tracking your travel will help you to realize your personal impact so you can work towards a solution for eco-friendly travel that feels right for you.
Until next time, thanks for joining me, neighbor.
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