In the modern world we have many choices available to us for travelling from place to place – how do we decide which is the best? An important criteria on this ever-warming planet is “how sustainable is it”? Of course, the bicycle is the ultimate in human-powered, emission-free transport, but if you are travelling long distances, it is not always practical to hop on a bike.
After human-powered transit, tram light rail and buses are nearly tied for efficiency – so if you are travelling to an urban area where public transit is available, this is a great way to mitigate your carbon footprint while seeing the sights. Plus, by skipping the car, you save money and you don’t have to worry about parking in a strange city!
As you can see from the graph, even heavy rail or electric/diesel powered rail make a significant jump up in energy usage per passenger. Of course, these modes become more efficient as the length of the journey increases – so for example, a cross-country train journey could actually be more efficient than a short, stop-and-go trip by city bus.
Cars, planes, and taxis (at least, in their current fossil fuel-dependent state) are the clear losers in the game of eco-friendly travel. Single-occupancy cars are particularly bad, but carpooling or ride sharing is another great way to save money and lessen carbon emissions at the same time. And for those long trans-oceanic flights, a great way to counteract their pollution could be simply renting a bicycle or taking public transit wherever you happen to land.
In the future, perhaps we will have renewably-powered electric vehicles or hydrogen-based fuel that emits only clean water – these technologies are already being tested. But in the meantime, we can still do the best we can with what’s available to make green, healthy choices for ourselves and our planet.