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When Flying is the Greener Choice

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If you’re traveling more than 1,000 miles, hopping on a carbon-squandering jet is actually the greenest choice for lone travelers or couples. (Well, honestly, bus travel is a more conscientious choice, but traveling by bus for 1,000 miles sounds like the plot of the most boring yet frightening horror movie ever.) Air travel even beats out trains for this distance, though the carbon equation shifts for trips shorter than 500 miles, when train trumps plane travel.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which bills itself as “the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world,” knows you’re not going to give up travel and they don’t think you should.

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The UCS has created a handy and somewhat surprising chart (above) to go with its Getting There Greener guide that spells out the most and least eco-friendly choices for different distances and different sorts of travelers. 

Though the normally 8-hour journey to Virginia stretched to a 12-hour slog at Thanksgiving, driving a fuel-efficient car was the best (non-bus) choice for my family of four. Well, that little bit of information hardly makes up for the non-stop whining in those long final hours of the drive, but I guess I’m leaving my kids a greener world to kvetch in.

Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

illustration © Jean Philippe-Delhomme; chart detail courtesy of Union of Concerned Scientist

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