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Getting there Greener: Travel Guide for Low-Carbon Vacation

Motor Coaches & Trains Are Often Greenest
 
For travel agents with clients looking to reduce their contribution to global warming, there is a new tool to help them choose their greenest travel option.  The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, released a first-of-its-kind consumer guide that compares the carbon footprints of a range of domestic travel options, including motor coaches/intercity buses, trains, planes, cars, and SUVs.  Visit http://www.ucsusa.org/gettingtheregreener for the full details.
 
"Vacation travel can generate a surprising amount of global warming pollution," said Jim Kliesch, a UCS senior engineer. He noted, for example, that a family of four flying first class from Chicago to Orlando via Houston could emit substantially more carbon dioxide than the sum of the parents' weekday commutes over an entire year.
 
Motor coaches are generally the greenest vacation travel option.  Likewise, trains-especially ones that run on electricity-are often a particularly clean travel choice.  The peer-reviewed UCS analysis revealed counter-intuitive findings as well.  For example, the best options for green travel can shift significantly depending on the number of people traveling and distance traveled.
 
UCS researchers calculated the amount of carbon dioxide generated per trip for distances ranging from 100 to 3,000 miles.  Americans travel an average of 1,200 miles on a typical vacation, according to the Travel Industry Association.  Since trip emissions also depend on the number of passengers traveling, UCS evaluated data for solo travelers, couples and families of four.
 
Special Tips
 
"More and more people want to go green," said UCS Executive Director Kathy Rest. In addition to the carbon pollution comparison chart, the report offers tips for each mode of travel, including:
 
  • Motor coaches often are the greenest option.  A couple traveling on a motor coach will generate nearly 50 percent less global warming pollution than they would driving a fuel-efficient hybrid car.
  • Big SUVs and first-class flights generally pollute the most.  A passenger occupying a first-class seat is responsible for twice as much carbon dioxide pollution as one in a standard coach seat. To shrink a vacation carbon footprint, travelers should avoid these options.
  • For couples and solo travelers, a nonstop coach flight almost always beats an average car.  Air travel is often assumed to be the worst option for vacation travel, but auto pollution can add up, especially when vacationers drive long distances or travel with few passengers. If traveling alone or with one other person, vacationers are usually better off flying direct in coach than getting behind the wheel.  
  • Rent more m.p.g.  If vacationers do not own a fuel-efficient vehicle, they should consider renting one for longer trips.  A large, inefficient SUV emits nearly four times the global warming pollution of a highly efficient hybrid such as a Toyota Prius.  If hybrids are not available, travelers should consider an efficient conventional car, which will cut pollution and fuel costs. 

By Chris Navarro
Get Travel Agent Jobs, Contributing Editor
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