Photo by Yury Kirillov
What is sustainable transportation? This type of transportation refers to low impact methods of getting from one location to another, while emitting to lowest amount of CO2 as possible. These forms of transport can include electric vehicles, public transportation like buses, ride-sharing, but also wind-powered boats or solar-powered yachts. While each transportation method comes with pros and cons, there are many great options to consider.
But first-off, why should we prioritize sustainable transportation?
The transportation industry is responsible for large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions as most vehicles still use non- renewable energy sources such as kerosene and petroleum. The industry also accounts for large quantities of air pollution. In the United States for example, the transportation industry is responsible for 45% of the total emission of Nitrogen Oxide, a gas that directly affects the air quality. Besides health affects, transportation by road often leads to traffic. Cars in congestion often waste a lot of fuel by having to constantly start and stop your car as you inch forward.
Though driving cannot always be avoided, there are a few factors that can help inform your choice of transportation including the distance you need to cover, the time available, the amount of luggage you have, your physical ability, your flexibility, your budget and of course, the methods available. Keep this in mind as we unpack the most and least transport options.
The least sustainable option
Let’s start off with the least sustainable form of transportation: airplanes. CO2 emissions from aviation contribute to 2.5% of the total global emissions. Airplanes fly on kerosene, which is a type of fuel that is a non- renewable source of energy. Airplane emission rates are highest during takeoff and landing, hence for this reason, short haul flights are particularly bad for the environment. Airplanes, however, for long distance or intercontinental travel are often the only option as they tend to be the fastest and sometimes even the cheapest option to cover long distances. If you do choose to take an airplane, book a non- stop flight and try to pack light to limit your carbon footprint.
A better choice
Buses, especially electric buses are a much greener option, especially for shorter distances. If you were to compare the emission rates per mile between a standard car and a bus, you would notice a big difference. A standard car emits 346 grams of CO2 per mile in comparison to a 100 grams per mile for a bus. The amount of passengers on the bus directly correlated to its carbon footprint. A bus can carry up to 50 passengers and the more passengers on board, the more sustainable the trip will be.
If you prefer driving, but want to be more sustainable, you can opt for carpooling. Taking your own car can be sustainable as long as you are not the only passenger in the car. Electric cars, for instance, are also more eco- friendly than older fuel driven vehicles. The emission of an electric car is 161 grams of CO2 per mile compared to the 346 grams for a standard car. If you’re concerned about charging your vehicle while driving longer distances a hybrid car is a great option; a hybrid car emits 257 grams of carbon dioxide per mile.
A sustainable decision
The most sustainable transportation method is by train since modern trains travel on electricity and can travel long distances, relatively fast. Trains can also be an affordable and comfortable option for traveling, both long and short distances. Train travel also contributes 80% less emissions compared with car travel for distances up to 50 miles. Trains on average use less energy than most other vehicles as trains have less acceleration and a lower rolling resistance. Although not all trains are the same since not all trains run on renewable energy and offer the same levels of comfort as a private car, which is something to take into consideration.
Overall, bicycles are the most sustainable transportation for shorter distances and one of the healthiest forms of transportation as it allows for you to get a good workout while spending time in the fresh air. If you do not have a bicycle or you live in an area where driving a bicycle might not be the safest option, it is possible to opt for walking instead! Empty your mind, move your body and save the planet!
So what makes a transportation method sustainable? Low carbon emissions, the use of renewable energy and shared transport options. For short distance travel, opt for walking or a bicycle. For longer trips, a train or tour bus is probably the most sustainable option. Sustainable transportation can look different for everyone.
Traveling is great but when we travel, let’s all keep our environment at the front of our mind and try to make sustainable choices.
Sea Going Green is a sustainable tourism consultancy working with tourism operators to offer low-carbon and low-impact tours and packages to guests.
What is sustainable transportation? This type of transportation refers to
low impact methods of getting from one location to another, while emitting
to lowest amount of CO2 as possible. These forms of transport can include
electric vehicles, public transportation like buses, ride-sharing, but also
wind-powered boats or solar-powered yachts. While each transportation
method comes with pros and cons, there are many great options to consider.Read MoreSustainable LivingBlog – Sea Going Green