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Myth-Busting Sustainable Travel!

Hello neighbors!

Y’all loved the vegan myth-busting episode last year, so I wanted to bring it back with myth-busting sustainable travel! I feel like talking about sustainable travel can be tough because people want to be able to travel, whether that’s locally or far away, without feeling guilty about their environmental impact. A lot of people feel like they have to be like Greta Thunberg, vowing to never fly and taking boats instead, to only walk or take a bike for the rest of their life, or never travel – but that’s not the case!

The truth is, sustainable travel isn’t just for tree-hugging hippies and extreme environmentalists; it’s for anyone who wants to get around mindfully. So before you tune out sustainable travel, let’s break some myths you might’ve heard so that you feel confident in traveling sustainably.

Myth-busting sustainable travel

Myth 1: Sustainable travel is too expensive

One of the biggest myths about sustainable travel is that it’s more expensive than conventional tourism. This isn’t true! It all depends on how you choose to travel and how much you’re willing to spend. For example, if you want to fly in luxury and stay at five-star hotels, then yes—sustainable travel will be more expensive than conventional tourism. But if you’re looking for a budget trip with great food, interesting activities, and fun people? There are sustainable options abound!

And there are lots of ways to find affordable transportation around the world—public transit, walking tours, and biking can make your budget go further while helping reduce environmental impact. As long as you keep an eye out for deals online, plan ahead, or better yet—ask locals, there are plenty of inexpensive options available if your heart is set on getting off the beaten path or finding unique experiences!

Myth 2: True environmentalists don’t fly

As I said, we can’t all be Greta Thurnburg. Sometimes the alternatives to flying take so much extra time to get to our location that if we chose them – we wouldn’t be able to go at all. We’ve seen that flying is one of the most harmful forms of transport, but flying doesn’t automatically rule you out as an environmentalist. There are ways to make it more sustainable.
You can make a difference by choosing your flights wisely, and by researching how different airlines are working towards making their planes more sustainable. For instance, you can:

  • Choose the most direct flight.
  • Choose the most fuel-efficient aircraft.
  • Choose the most environmentally friendly airline.
  • Choose the most environmentally friendly airport

You can also just choose to fly less, and do other things to reduce your impact on the environment. No one can rule you out as an environmentalist just because you get on an airplane.

Myth 3: Electric vehicles are worse for the environment than gas-powered cars

Electric vehicles are better for the environment than gas-powered cars or even hybrid vehicles!
Electric vehicles are great for the environment because they don’t use fossil fuels to generate power and can be recharged with clean energy from solar or wind power sources. And they’re more affordable than you’d think! They don’t require oil changes and maintenance that gas-powered vehicles do, there are many free charging stations available, and you can even get a tax credit for buying electric cars and charging your vehicle at work.

And they don’t produce the air pollution and noise that gas-powered vehicles do so it is safer for human health with less C02 emissions. Now, while we have come a long way with eco-friendly vehicles, EV’s still aren’t zero-emission. An all-electric vehicle emits about 5k pounds of c02 equivalent per year while gas-powered vehicles are around 11.5k.

The other argument is about the battery and manufacturing being worse for the environment – because they do rely on rare earth elements (REE) like lithium, nickel, cobalt, or graphite to make them. But research by the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that EV cars are cleaner from cradle to grave saying that despite their initial footprint, the impact of lithium-ion batteries when compared to conventional cars is offset in 6 to 16 months of average driving in the US.
We’ve got some work to do – but the future of transportation is electric, and the time to start making the switch is now.

Myth 4: Ridesharing is the most environmentally friendly transportation

What was thought to be a great solution to congestion, lowering emissions, and car reduction years ago, hasn’t turned out as beneficial as predicted – at least not yet anyway.

Climate reporter Tim McDonnell reports that:

“In terms of carbon footprint, and although ride-share vehicles are typically newer and more fuel-efficient than the average passenger vehicle, per-trip emissions from ride-share vehicles were about 20% higher than those in personal vehicles. The main reason for the difference is deadheading, said Jeremy Michalek, one of the study’s authors. On average, deadheading accounted for 43% of total drive time—time spent producing carbon emissions, blocking traffic, and being at risk of accidents that a person driving their own vehicle would avoid.”

Yale reported another study that:

“indicates that most ridesharing trips add new cars to the road, contributing to increased travel times,” and that, “Researchers observed that people used ridesharing services when they would have otherwise walked, biked, or used public transportation, further exacerbating the traffic problem.”

The benefit? Ride-sharing is better for air pollution – since there is less cold-starting of cars.

Again, we still have some work to make ridesharing more environmentally friendly, but if you’re going to ride share – try to do group sharing and have them pick you up at a location that won’t cause road congestion.
Overall, walking, public transportation (buses, subways, and trains), and biking still reign supreme as the most environmental forms of transportation.

Myth 5: Sustainable Travel is too hard

Absolute myth! When planning a trip or just getting around in everyday life, you can make your travel more eco-friendly by doing your research and planning ahead. With as accessible as it is for us to use our phones – it’s easier than ever to find cool and environmentally friendly ways to travel.

Before booking your trip, do a quick search for transportation, accommodations, activities, and local restaurants to make sure not only which ones fit within your budget but also what their environmental impacts on the local area and beyond are.

Something to grow on

Hopefully, this episode has helped you to debunk some of the myths surrounding sustainable travel. Sustainable travel is not as difficult as it seems and can make a huge difference in how you experience your next trip. It doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort or convenience; it just means being conscious about how much energy and natural resources are used when traveling, and implementing small but impactful changes when you can.

For this week’s Something To Grow on segment, I wanted to give another gentle reminder that you shouldn’t hold guilt about not being perfectly sustainable. It’s an unrealistic expectation to set for yourself and for other people. But we can boldly step into the work we ARE doing to reduce our impact on this planet with pride and joy – and that seed will continue to grow and flourish until everyone will see how beautiful of a life sustainable living can be.

So take a few minutes out of your day today and take a mental note of the progress you’ve made so far and pat yourself on the back. I’m proud of the work you’re doing!

Until next time neighbors, thanks for joining me.

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