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Now more than ever, it’s important to make conscious decisions when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint to protect this planet for generations to come. While we can make meaningful decisions related to the food we eat, the materials we throw away, and the electricity and water we consume, one of the ways we can also make a major difference is by examining the way we travel. 

What is a carbon footprint?

The term carbon footprint gets tossed around a lot, and before we continue, it’s important to examine what it means. A carbon footprint is an expression used to represent a person’s calculated impact on the planet’s environment. 

Generally speaking, a carbon footprint is an estimate of the total greenhouse gases emitted by a person, a product, a company, or an action. These gasses include methane, nitrous oxide, and several others but are primarily comprised of carbon dioxide (CO2), which makes up 95% of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and is produced from the burning of fossil fuels. Large quantities of these gases are being trapped in the atmosphere and are absorbing excess heat, turning the planet into a giant metaphorical greenhouse (this is where we get the term greenhouse gasses from). This buildup has led to a rapid rise in the global temperature and is creating far-reaching and dangerous changes to the world’s climate.

We can use carbon footprints to broadly represent a person’s combined lifetime emissions, or we can use them to evaluate particular actions or decisions—such as choosing a mode of transportation. This can be especially helpful when we try to determine which particular actions are healthier for the planet in the long run. 

What is the most environmentally friendly way to travel?

If you’re concerned about picking the most eco-friendly way to travel, with the smallest possible carbon footprint, you’re not alone. According to a TripAdvisor study, over 70% of travelers plan on making more environmentally friendly travel choices than they have in the past.

Within the transportation industry, the environmental impact of a particular mode of transportation is measured by how many passenger miles it gets per gallon of fuel it consumes (MPG). This is important to keep in mind, because while the latest model of the hybrid car may burn less fuel over a given distance than a charter bus, its overall capacity and average passenger count is drastically smaller. This means that even a hybrid car’s eco-responsibility over long distances may be much lower than you’d think. 

Comparing fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and average passenger count, The American Bus Association Foundation and The Union of Concerned Scientists have reported that buses and motor coaches are the most environmentally friendly form of transportation available. 

A chart comparing the environmental impact of five different transportation types for a 382 mile trip.

Motor coaches provide a whopping 207 passenger Miles Per Gallon (MPG) while trains achieve 92 MPG. Airlines get 44 MPG, and private cars with only a single occupant (which, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, represents the majority of car traffic on the road) only achieve an efficiency of 27 MPG.

We can already see the advantages in raw miles per gallon benefits of charter bus travel, but what does that mean for the average CO2 emissions associated with each mode of transportation?

A motor coach will create approximately 0.17 lbs of CO2 emissions per passenger mile traveled. Comparatively, a train creates 0.41 lbs of CO2 emissions per passenger mile, a car creates 1.17 lbs of CO2 per passenger mile, and a commercial airline creates 1.83 lbs per passenger mile.

  •  Charter Bus: 0.17 lbs/passenger mile
  •  Train: 0.41 lbs/passenger mile
  •  Airplane: 1.83 lbs/passenger mile
  •  Car: 1.17 lbs/passenger mile

Again, it’s clear that charter bus transportation produces significantly less CO2 than all other forms of long-distance travel, but to really put it into perspective, let’s look at a typical trip between Los Angeles and San Diego. 

A single passenger riding on an average charter bus trip between Los Angeles and San Diego will produce only 15.43 lbs of CO2. That same passenger will produce almost 40 lbs of CO2 if they decide to take that same trip by train, a little over 90 lbs of CO2 if they travel by car, and a staggering 165.35 lbs if they travel by commercial airline.

  •  Charter Bus:  15.43 lbs of CO2
  •  Train: 39.68 lbs of CO2
  •  Car: 90.39 lbs of CO2
  •  Airplane: 165.35 lbs of CO2

Here we can see a concrete difference between each mode of transportation. On any given day, a single traveler who makes the voyage between Los Angeles and San Diego in a charter bus will produce just shy of 150 fewer pounds of CO2 than had they decided to take the same trip on a commercial airline. While 150 pounds of difference may not seem like the end of the world in the grand scheme of things, if this single passenger happens to be traveling with all their coworkers for a business meeting that takes place every quarter, then these numbers can add up awfully quickly. 

Moving forward with sustainable charter bus rentals from Bus.com

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration, transportation accounts for 29% of U.S. CO2 emissions, and the average American’s total carbon footprint is an astonishing 50,000 lbs. While it’s clear we aren’t going to be able to eliminate the need for modes of long-distance travel, we can all make the informed decision to rely more on greener modes of transportation and opt out of the most polluting types whenever possible.

The amount of CO2 that Bus.com has saved over the past three years.

At Bus.com, we’re committed to providing safe, comfortable, and sustainable charter bus transportation. You can be confident that you’re helping to reduce the collective impact on the environment when you choose to a sustainable charter bus rental from Bus.com for your corporate events, school outings, college and university plans, spiritual trips and wedding celebrations. At Bus.com, it is our belief that with one sustainable decision at a time, we can move towards a greener future for the generations to come.