You’ve probably heard that flying is harming the planet, but is driving is any better? Both modes of transportation contribute to greenhouse gasses, exacerbating the current climate crisis. The answer to whether one method is worse for the environment is…complicated.
“The environmental impact of choosing one mode of transportation over another, in this case driving versus flying, depends on a large numbers of factors, such as the distance traveled, how far away one would need to drive to get to the airport, how many people are traveling in the plane or car to the same destination, the vehicle’s fuel efficiency, and so on,” says Sandra Goldmark, Director of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action at Barnard College in New York City.
While it’s definitely a lot to think about, your individual actions can truly make a difference. With that in mind, here’s how experts say you can make smarter travel choices and reduce your carbon footprint. While you’re at it, learn which “eco-friendly” habits are actually worse for the environment.
Even though you are sharing an airplane with others, driving is better than flying when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint, especially when you are sharing the ride with others and/or driving a fuel-efficient car. “For a relatively short trip (300 to 500 miles), the most efficient approach would be a fuel-efficient vehicle (hybrid or electric) with multiple passengers,” says former EPA official Janet McCabe, a professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law and Assistant Director for Policy and Implementation at IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute. “A hybrid or all-electric car emits less per passenger mile than a diesel- or gasoline-powered car.”