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Green Holiday Travel: Best Eco-Friendly Travel Tips

Planning some holiday travel? Think about making that trip a little greener. A family of four can produce more carbon emission on one vacation than they will during an entire year of commuting to work, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here’s advice from the UCS on how to travel greener over the holidays, and how an earth-friendly vacation can also be easy on the wallet.

  • Go Green: Take the Bus. Motor coaches are generally the greenest mode of travel, according to the UCS. Compared with flying coach, a couple who go by bus will reduce their carbon dioxde emissions by 55 to 75 percent, depending upon the distance traveled. Even if two travelers use a fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle, a bus trip will cut their trip emissions in half. Save Green: Bus travel is typically much less expensive than flying, and can even be cheaper than driving. A recent Amtrak sale offered a $49 round-trip from Boston to New York City, for example.
  • Go Green: Travel by Train. A train emits 60 percent less carbon per passenger mile than a car with a single occupant, UCS researchers report. Compared to a 500-mile trip on a small jet plane, a train emits 30 percent less carbon. Save Green: Trains can offer big savings for those traveling between large cities. Since train stations are often much closer to city centers than airports are, travelers might be able to walk to their destination, and avoid renting a car or paying for a cab or shuttle (and reducing carbon emissions even more.)
  • Go Green: Avoid Flying First-Class. Yes, it’s tempting to take the upgrade to business class or first class, but these seats occupy approximately twice as much cabin space as an economy-class seat. That means that passengers who fly in them are effectively responsible for twice the emissions of an economy-class passenger, according to the UCS report. Airlines with coach-only seating, like Southwest, can transport more passengers on a given amount of fuel, which results in lower per-passenger carbon emissions. Save Green: Most of the airlines that offer coach-only seating are discount carriers.
  • Go Green: Choose a Direct Flight. Taking the scenic route by air will rack up frequent flier miles, but a direct flight is a greener choice. Save Green: Often, direct flights cost about the same as flights with one or two stops. Sometimes, they’re even cheaper, especially flights that leave early in the morning or late at night.
  • Go Green: Pack Lightly. It’s true of trains, planes, automobiles, and even boats: the more weight they carry, the more fuel they use. So, why pack more stuff than necessary? Packing lightly doesn’t have to mean wearing the same clothing for a week. Look for easy ways to do it, like bringing only one of something that can be shared (say, toothpaste and shaving cream) when traveling with companions. Find out if the hotel or host has a hairdryer or other appliances, to avoid packing them. Shoes and boots add major weight to a bag, so wear the heaviest pair, and try to keep extras to a minimum. Save Green: Fitting it all into a carryon will eliminate the need to check baggage, avoiding airline fees for checked baggage.
  • Go Green: Look for Green Lodgings. Green is the buzzword in hotels these days. One way to find out if a property truly is green is to look for LEED certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and the program is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council to promote sustainable building practices. To date, more than 30 hotels have received LEED certification, and nearly 900 hotel projects have registered for this status. Save Green: Some eco-friendly properties, like Westin’s element hotels, have in-room kitchens, eliminating the need to eat out for every meal.

Being green on the go, and staying green on the road are great ways to lessen the environmental impact of travel. Using green travel practices can also save a bit of green, namely, money.