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Road Trips vs. Flying: Which One is Greener?

Choosing paper or plastic at the grocery store or opting to bring our own reusable bags, taking the plastic cup offered at the coffee shop or bringing our own with us, or deciding whether to fly or drive on our next business trip or family outing — life is full of everyday decisions that can have quite the environmental impact. It's important that we take the time to evaluate these choices carefully, then make the one that works well for our needs, as well as for the environment.

Flying is often faster than driving, allowing us to get from Point A to Point B much more quickly. When an important business deadline (or Aunt Norma's Christmas ham) is at stake, it seems like it's a no-brainer to just go ahead and book the flight.

But how do driving and flying impact the environment? If we plan out our trip a little more carefully, can we make a greener decision that will get us to our destination and also benefit the planet? Let's take a look at the facts about road trips versus flying so we can learn which the better option is for our individual circumstances.

Driving Has a Lower Carbon Footprint than Flying

If we're making our decision based solely on environmental impact, driving is a clear winner. When we compare carbon footprints of flying versus driving, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions is much larger when we fly. Driving has a lower carbon footprint than flying, and is the most environmentally friendly option.

As an added benefit, when you choose to drive for your next trip, you gain the advantage of being able to travel when it's convenient for you, instead of being tied to the schedule that the airline generates.

If You Decide to Fly, Consider Purchasing Carbon Offsets

If you have to fly in order to make an appointment, or must fly regularly for business, consider purchasing carbon offset credits. This purchase is added to the price of your ticket and allows the airline to put money back into green initiatives in order to offset the greenhouse gas emissions created by the flight.

If opting for car travel is simply impossible, this is a good way to give back to the environment when you must fly.

Personal Choices Make an Impact

No matter how you choose to travel, it's important to note that your personal choices have an impact as well. Carpooling helps decrease your greenhouse gas emissions even further, for example. If you're traveling a short distance, packing a meal, snack, or drink can help reduce the amount of trash that your trip generates.

Each day gives us a variety of chances to choose how we impact the environment, so if you can't help in one way, stay alert for other ways that you may be able to help. To truly make a difference, it's important that we all make changes where and when we can.


Image Credit: Flickr User Kusker & Wildhaber Photography

Image Credit: Flickr User eszter 

Sandi Lilly is a freelance writer with five years of on and offline experience. She has been published in B2B Magazine, the Main ARTery Magazine, and has written multiple articles for and and other websites on behalf of companies such as She works from her home in West Virginia while homeschooling her two children.