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It’s Not Easy Being Green! 6 Questions You Need to Ask to Determine Your Travel Carbon Footprint

Written by Suzy Guese

Countless studies and data have proven that travel doesn’t always make it easy to go green. A major consequence of traveling — be it driving, taking the bus, or hopping on one way or round trip flights — is carbon emissions. If you are concerned about the environment and future of the planet, you can adjust how you travel to roam more sustainably. Figuring out your impact involves examining your own travel habits. Ask yourself these questions to help determine where you need to make changes, how to make them, and why you should.

Have You Ever Used a Carbon Calculator to Decide How to Travel to Your Destination?

Firstly, you have to figure out how much carbon emissions you’re actually producing before you can hone in on the areas you need to change. A number of carbon emissions calculators exist online so that you can figure out just what your footprint is for a specific trip. If the calculator tells you it would be better to drive for that short business trip than fly, you can change your travel plans accordingly. These calculators generally just need to know where you’re traveling. By knowing an estimate, you can better assess which mode of transport will have a reduced footprint.

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How Much Do You Pack?


You might not consider that bringing more items and weight with you when you travel can also harm the environment. While for many travelers it’s simply not an option to stop flying, you can pack less to offset your footprint. Lighter packers tend to help cut back on an airplane’s carbon emissions (the lighter the plane is, the less fuel it burns). The same can be said for road trips. Cut back on that extra suitcase and you can feel content that you’ve done something to lower the environmental impact of your round trip flights.

Do You Fly Non-Stop or Make a Lot of Connections?

Especially for travelers looking for a good deal on a flight, you’ll often select the option with loads of connections, as it might be significantly cheaper. However, connecting flights mean more landings and takeoffs, which in turn means more airplane emissions. A 2010 report from NASA noted that around 25% of airplane emissions come from takeoff and landing. With each connecting flight, you are using more fuel than you would if you just took the non-stop.

How Green Are Your Hotel Stays?


When we search for hotels, most of us just want somewhere clean, safe, and with the amenities we need. However, many travelers neglect to look out for hotels that are taking steps towards being greener. As you look for eco-friendly property, you’ll want to watch out for perks like key card-activated lights and air conditioning along with hotels that have water saving programs in place. In addition to booking hotels with environmental measures in place, you can also monitor how you use hotel resources by not leaving on the lights when you don’t need them or forgoing to have your linens washed daily.

Have You Ever Used a Carbon Emissions Offset Program?

Sometimes you just have to fly or rent that car. When you do, many companies have carbon emissions offset programs you can donate to in order to offset your trip. Many airlines allow you to use miles or money to contribute to projects that help reduce greenhouse gases when you buy a ticket. Car rental companies and even Amtrak have similar programs in place so that when you do have to travel, you can make that footprint a little bit smaller.

RELATED: Looking for ways to be more environmentally conscious when on the road? Here are 7 things you can do to be a more eco-friendly traveler!

Do You Rent a Car More Than You Use Public Transportation?


You might always rent a car when you travel. It can certainly be the most convenient option when you arrive at a destination to just pick up a vehicle and be on your way. However, if you’re traveling in a city with reliable public transport, using those public transportation options is often your greenest option. Subways, buses, and trams can help reduce your footprint. You can even try rideshares instead of renting your own vehicle to cut back on the emissions you are emitting your destination.

Traveling, especially flying (be it going on one way or round trip flights), is far from green. However, by asking yourself these key questions and making changes accordingly, you can shrink your carbon footprint significantly.


About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at

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