I did the math in my head. We have one car that barely gets driven, a TV and DVD player that get unplugged when not in use, plus a diet free of meat — and I have to admit that I was feeling a bit overconfident when I plugged my numbers into the carbon calculator at www.carbonfootprint.com.
That is, until I entered my air travel habits.
Living abroad means I take one overseas trip every year. Sometimes two. Just one commercial flight creates about 184 kilograms of CO2 per passenger. And my transatlantic flight came out to 1.7 tons roundtrip. That’s a whopping 25 percent of my overall footprint (!!!), which added up to 7 tons of CO2. According to carbonfootprint.com, the average total footprint per person in industrialized countries is 11 tons, while the target is 2 tons to effectively combat climate change. So, clearly, I still have a long way to go to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
The timing of this realization couldn’t have come at a worse time — right in the middle of holiday travel planning. When we decided to cancel our trip back home to the States, my eco-conscience thanked me. Instead, we’ll be staying closer to home for our holiday getaway, taking the train to somewhere here in Europe.
Of course, sometimes air travel can’t be avoided, especially this time of year. Here are some other ways to keep dirty travel miles to a minimum over the holidays and beyond:
- Instead of pouring a glass of wine from South Africa or Chile at your holiday gatherings, opt for grapes grown nearby. For those living on the East Coast, wines from Europe are often the greenest, according to www.greenyour.com, since they come over via container ship.
- Send packages early by ground rather than waiting until the last minute and choosing 2nd day air. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, ground shipping is six times more fuel efficient than shipping by air. You can also offset the carbon emissions created by shipping your order from some websites including Gaiam.com.
- Choose domestic frozen fruits and vegetables for pies and side dishes over out-of-season imports. (Read more on Gaiam Life about how eating foods in season and eating local can shrink your climate change impact.)
Anyone else finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint for the holidays?