The transportation sector is among the largest contributors to man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the Unites States, according to the EPA. So, how do we travel with the planet in mind?

Overall, the European Environment Association states that trains are the best choice for passenger travel, based on greenhouse gas emissions per passenger. Railroads account for just 2% of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, while cars, trucks, and planes have a much larger environmental impact.

If traveling by train is not optional, deciding between a car or plane depends on the distance you’re traveling and the number of passengers. Flying produces less carbon emissions per passenger than a single passenger car if the trip is farther than 1,000 kilometers, or around 620 miles. For shorter distances, cars are better than planes, and car-pooling significantly reduces each traveler’s carbon footprint.

If flying is your best option, several measures can be taken to have a less impactful flight:

  • Take direct, non-stop flights (Planes release the most carbon during take-off!)
  • Pack light to reduce fuel consumption
  • Use websites such as Google Flights or Sky Scanner to compare the carbon footprints of different flights and find the most efficient flight
  • Calculate the carbon footprint of your trip based on method of transportation, number of passengers, and distance traveled using this carbon footprint calculator.

Sustainable Choices While at Your Destination

  • Walk, bike, or use public transportation such as buses and trains to explore
  • Turn off lights and air conditioning while out during the day and use the “do not disturb” sign to avoid unnecessary cleaning
  • Book an eco-certified hotel or other sustainable accommodation. Websites such as enable you to search for the greenest choice
  • Eat at restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients or buy food at a farmers’ market to cook in your hotel
  • Avoid food waste by bringing reusable takeout containers with you and not ordering more than you can eat
  • Observe: What sustainable behaviors do the locals engage in that you can adopt?


Information from EPA, Sustainable Travel International, Impact Travel Alliance, European Environment Association, and Our World in Data.