How to Travel Sustainably

I have been contemplating a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit a couple of friends but am having trouble figuring out the greenest way to get there. At first I thought maybe I could combine it with a trip to Raleigh for Will’s brother’s wedding but it sounds like that’s not going to work out. (Will and I are planning to drive to Raleigh either in my mom’s Toyota Prius or in my greasecar and from there I would only be driving about five hours on my own.)

The other obvious option is flying, which has remained oddly affordable despite rising fuel prices. My gut feeling is that flying has a really bad environmental impact but I have read very mixed studies about it. Laura forwarded me a great article from Salon about air travel and their conclusion is that it’s probably a better environmental choice than driving but that the bottom line is that the world would be a better place if we traveled less. He did mention that it’s difficult to evaluate the full impact of jet exhaust since it is released very high in the atmosphere and is suspected to have different effects than, say, car exhaust.

He also suggested that train travel is the most efficient option but alas, it is a challenging proposition from Bloomington. The nearest train station is in Indianapolis and pretty much all the trains go to Chicago, except that mostly they have been replaced by buses. (I guess it’s become a pretty common trick for Amtrak but it always shocks me a little when I pull up a train schedule and it says “Bus.”) So I would need to drive to Indianapolis, take the train to Chicago, hang around for a few hours, then take the train overnight to D.C. with a total travel time of about 24 hours and a total cost of over $150 one-way. Not very encouraging.

So I’m continuing to weigh my options. Perhaps it would make sense to fly and purchase some carbon offset credits, or perhaps I could justify the trip by hauling some more of Laura’s furniture to her, or maybe I’ll just make my friends come to me (although that’s really just another way to pass the buck). I do feel pretty blessed that most of my friends and family are within biking distance so I can probably justify the odd plane trip or two a year. And maybe one of these years I’ll get really hardcore and buy myself a horse and buggy. Maybe. this!

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Stacey Derbinshire said,

    February 23, 2008 @ 12:15 am

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Stacey Derbinshire

  2. 2

    Laura said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

    You know, I don’t know why I didn’t suggest it earlier–have you considered taking the actual bus (I recommend Peter Pan operated schedules over Greyhound’s as their buses are usually newer and nicer, but they are operated by GH)? At least that way you would be riding rather than driving, carpooling, and saving the wear and tear on your car.

  3. 3

    Maggie said,

    March 8, 2008 @ 1:07 am

    Laura –
    Yeah, I should consider Greyhound but I’d have to catch it in Indianapolis and I must confess, after our trip to New York I’m not very excited about long bus rides. That one had me feeling mighty claustrophobic. I work with a woman who has vowed to live car-free and she takes the Greyhound to Portland, Oregon every year. It just doesn’t sound much fun. But it’s worth considering

  4. 4

    Maggie said,

    March 8, 2008 @ 1:09 am

    Stacey –
    Thanks for the encouragement! Please let me know if you have any feedback on what you like most/least about our posts.

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