Column: Life on Earth

This week’s topic: Traveling and the environment

By Elle Storoe

People love to travel, whether it’s for work, for family, or for fun. Traveling, however, isn’t necessarily the most ideal hobby that is best for the environment. Traveling by airplane is the worst way to travel. In an article written by Andy Newman for the New York Times, “One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles effectively adds months’ worth of human-generated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.” Cruise ships are another popular way to see the world, but the ships produce three to four times more carbon emissions than an airplane. What about traveling by train? According to an article written in AFAR – Travel Magazine and Guide, “National rail operator Amtrak reports that one of its electric trains emits .074 kilograms of greenhouse gases per passenger mile, compared with .227 kilograms of greenhouse gases per passenger mile for short-haul flights. That translates into 70 percent fewer emissions for a rail journey when compared to a short-haul flight.” Traveling by train would be the best way to reduce carbon emissions. Traveling by car is better than traveling by airplane but only by a little bit. The carbon emissions for both are about the same, however if you were to use an electric car, then the car would be a lot better than an airplane. For short distances, if we want to reduce our carbon emissions, biking or even walking would be the best mode of transportation. 

Now that we have established the best way to travel for the planet, lets talk about traveling wants and necessities that hurt the environment. For example, trash, hotels, packing, and more. When we travel, we don’t really think about trash as we use plastic water bottles, wrapped goodies, and more, not thinking about how the single use plastic is going end up in the ocean. Not thinking about the trash when we travel can have dire consequences on our planet. When traveling we need a place to stay and most travelers pick a hotel which includes the room service, the pools, and the maids to clean the rooms every day. When staying at a hotel, we don’t think of bringing soap, shampoo, or conditioner since hotels provide the basic necessities. The mini bottles are in thick, single use plastic, along with the key cards for each room. Hotels produce around 60 million tons of CO2 emissions annually due to wasteful practices, and the amount of energy needed to run a hotel. Lastly, when we travel, we don’t think about how we pack and the consequences to the planet. We pack plastic water bottles, or plastic toothbrushes, plastic bags, and other single-use items that are only being used for the current trip. The single-use plastics are very harmful to the environment. If we pack smart, we can reduce our impact. 

How to help:

There are many ways we can help our planet while seeing all of it beauties. 

First, we can start by reducing our flight emissions by traveling on the ground via bus, car, or train. Next, we can pack with eco-friendly products, and bring what we use at home. Instead of buying more shampoo and conditioner, or using the single use ones given to us by hotels, we can bring our own and use what we have, which will help us reduce our carbon footprint. We can stay at eco-friendly hotels which are hotels that have done significant improvements to help reduce the establishment’s environmental impact. And of course, we can pack smart by bringing what we know we will need and leave what we will not. We can bring what is needed so we won’t have to buy more at the destination.