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Question of the Week: How did you minimize environmental impacts while making holiday travel plans?

2008 November 24

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Thanksgiving is usually the busiest travel time in the U.S. Millions of us will be driving, flying, taking trains, or even walking to enjoy the holiday with family and friends.

How did you minimize environmental impacts while making holiday travel plans?

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

La Fiesta de Acción de Gracias suele ser la época de más viajes en EE.UU. Millones de nosotros viajaremos por automóvil, avión o trenes, o hasta caminaremos para disfrutar de las fiestas con amistades y amigos.

¿Cómo minimizaría los impactos medioambientales al trazar sus planes de viajes para las fiestas?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

25 Responses leave one →
  1. Utah Chris permalink
    November 24, 2008

    We voted to skip the Thanksgiving Hockey Tournaments because of the price of gas long before the price of gas started going down. I think this will be our first Thanksgiving at home in about 5 years. Nice. Although we would have carpooled, it is nice to say we are making an impact by staying home as stuffing our bellies with turkey and cranberries.

  2. Tommy permalink
    November 24, 2008

    I will consider:

    1.- Hypermilling by not passing the 2500rpm limit. Beyond that, gas starts to take its toll on your wallet and more fuel would be burn to the air.

    2.- If I go hunting, trekking or just outdoors, I would PRACTICE the golden rule of the trekkers: PACK EVERYTHING THAT YOU UNPACK to later dispose it correctly.

  3. Corinne Ouellette permalink
    November 24, 2008

    We invited our daughter for Christmas instead of Thanksgiving to save on travel expences and air polution and we invited just her so we don’t have to breathe her boyfriend’s cigarrette smoke.

  4. Corinne Ouellette permalink
    November 24, 2008

    Nice move that way you can avoid getting hit up side the head with a hockey puck. That’s what happened to our daughter’s friend at the University of Maine Black Bears hockey game last year.

  5. Girlie Girl permalink
    November 24, 2008

    I make my boyfriend carry me. This way, my carbon footprint is zero. His on the other hand, is kind of high because he must eat massive amounts of food to sustain himself through the physical labor of carrying me around.

  6. PA Science teacher permalink
    November 24, 2008

    My mom decided to carpool with my husband and I for Thanksgiving which will reduce our carbon footprint (or at least hers) greatly.

  7. Michele permalink
    November 24, 2008

    We are not traveling to see relatives. In addition, I have done our shopping ahead of time and will not be returning for those last minute items, so I have eliminated emissions and replaced it with good planning.

  8. j70460 permalink
    November 24, 2008

    Aside from driving the Prius (51.9 mpg) to mom-in-law’s house 3 miles away, ummmm, I’m going to compost the compostable garbage? Not eat off paper plates? Forego styrooam cups for washable glassses? I don’t do styrofoam anyway, so I suppose that doesn’t count but I do like to use paper plates as disposable cutting boards. Ah, well.

  9. Green Irene permalink
    November 24, 2008

    The holiday seasons are a time when many families travel to see friends and relatives. If avoiding the car is not an option this holiday season, Green Irene recommends using technology to make your car trip a little greener – and perhaps more pleasant. Idling in traffic, stopping and accelerating all increase your cars fuel consumption. The first step is to try to avoid peak travel times by leaving late or early. Next, use computers to help you adjust to traffic situations.
    1. Before you leave, check the Federal Highway Administration’s traffic an road closure information website: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo which has links to local traffic issues.
    2. Go to http://www.traffic.com for free traffic updates. (Also available at 866-698-7232.) They will send traffic updates to you by email or phone.
    3. Get a GPS device. The new versions take traffic into account when they suggest routes. They also keep you from getting lost and wasting time and energy.
    Using technology can reduce your emissions, trip time, and possible stress level whenever you are traveling so keep these tips in mind for any car travel.

  10. Wendy permalink
    November 24, 2008

    My husband and I will be driving instead of flying this year…we can avoid participating in the Great Thanksgiving Airport Debacle, renting a car, and utilizing multiple methods of transportation. We are now within a day’s drive of my parent’s, and we’ll be staying with them (and I won’t have to cook!).

  11. Shlomo Horowitz permalink
    November 24, 2008

    Oy! Such great questions posed by a noble and respected agency. I have a yearly tradition to fly to West Palm Beach down in Florida and play a round of golf with my cousins Herb and Chaim. Of course, I always win, but we celebrate with a wonderful Kosher feast! So much food! I bring back containers of cranberry sauce and Herb’s famous hamentashen for the kids. (Though, he calls it “Herbentashen.” He thinks he’s funny, but he’s just funny looking!) They go NUTS for the stuff.

    This year, instead of taking a plane down to play golf, I will be using the present Hanukkah Harry left for me under the Hanukkah bush last year. (It was really my wife, but I’ve yet to let on that I don’t believe in Hanukkah Harry. It makes things fun this way!) A Nintendo Wii with Wii Speak lets us play a round of golf with each other and not have to spend gelt up the genecta-gazoink flying to and from Florida. On the other hand, we may have to end up cooking our dinner without the treat of the hamentashen.

  12. Mar H. permalink
    November 24, 2008

    Like many other commenters here, my husband and I have decided to forego our yearly Thanksgiving trek to Los Angeles in order to save on gas and car wear and tear. We are, however, visiting friends who live a little bit closer, but by driving conservatively and using cruise control whenever possible hopefully we can minimize our impact even further (sidebar: I had originally thought that the opposite was true of cruise control, but green motoring tips claim otherwise…I find it interesting how much you can change just by curbing your bad driving habits).

    That having been said, we are also having a turkey-less Thanksgiving as I heard a report on NPR claiming that meat production in the US is another leading cause of greenhouse gases — going vegetarian, they proposed, could help even more than driving a Prius. I haven’t looked into it past that one report, but I plan to take them up on that challenge if possible.

  13. Mary G permalink
    November 24, 2008

    Are you trying to claim that Wii is a good substitute for quality family time?! There are simply certain things worth sacrificing the environment for, and one of those things is family! Wii-time is not equal to family time.

    And, Shlomo, your Wii may not be so friendly: http://www.begreenminded.com/2008/11/the-environmental-impact-of-playing-video-games/
    (Disclaimer: while the article doesn’t portray a Wii in particular, I feel that it would be included anyway.)

  14. November 25, 2008

    We are having everyone come to us for Thanksgiving :-) This way both sides of the family only have one place to drive to rather than doing the whole his family/my family thing. People are carpooling too.

  15. AnneMac permalink
    November 25, 2008

    Normally, my family members all drive the 1-hour trek to my Aunt Jeanne’s house in our own cars so we can be free to leave at will, on our own schedules, to participate in other Thanksgiving activities. This year, we are carpooling. I’ll be driving my parents and my other aunt, all of whom are uncomfortable driving after dark. This will allow everyone to stay later to enjoy the festivities longer, without fearing the loss of sunlight. That’s 34 driving hours (17 round trips) removed from the roads on Thursday.

  16. Marje W. permalink
    November 26, 2008

    We’re going to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner which is about 2 miles away, therefore we won’t be cooking a turkey ourselves which cuts down on electricity and will be using less than a sixth of a gallon of gas to get there and back.

  17. Shlomo Horowitz permalink
    November 26, 2008

    Your daughter’s friend was probably too busy text messaging on her new cellular phone to pay attention to the game on the ice. I’ll tell you, the children these days have no sensibilities or awareness of their surroundings. It’s like I tell Shvelta, my daughter, “Pay attention, or you could end up getting hit in the head with a hockey puck!”

  18. Shlomo Horowitz permalink
    November 26, 2008

    That’s a great way of getting around, now if I can only convince my wife to carry me to and from temple. What a marvelous idea!

  19. Shlomo Horowitz permalink
    November 26, 2008

    My Wii is very environmentally-friendly, Mary. It plugs into the wall when it is used and I make sure to unplug it when it is not. Ah! but you may say, Why not just purchase a power strip to store all gadgets and not have to risk electric shock just to save a few kilowatts? It would be a great question. I would, however, be ready with an even-greater answer! The power strips sold at my local Radio Shack cost well over $10! Such an expensive price for convenience! I have no problem making Shvelta, my daughter, unplug the Wii after use.

    We’ve had a few close encounters with our friend, Electricity, but nothing too major. Happy Thanksgiving, Mary, and thanks for the tip!

  20. Elise permalink
    November 26, 2008

    First, we will be traveling only over the Christmas holiday not Thanksgiving. Instead we will be with close by friends. Second, we are eating a free range (from a truly free range facility) turkey. Third, we are eating local produce (which is very hard in Alaska, but we do have local potatoes, carrots, raspberries (no cranberries), and salad. Next, we will use skype to communicate with our family which also allows video viewing. Next, we will not participate in the post-T day frantic sales. Finally, we will clean it all up with non-toxic soaps and compost all uneaten food (no meat). We will keep the bears safe by not leaving our garbage in cans where they can find it. Junk meat leftovers will be tossed into the ocean for the crab. A true Alaskan holiday! (oh, and we won’t be out on our snowmachines using up gas to run down and poach animals, which is another AK tradition we don’t agree with).

  21. Cathi permalink
    November 29, 2008

    Actually, I was hugely frustrated and failed to find a way to take a bus or train instead of driving alone to another city to visit friends. In a full day of sneaking into my office to work again at finding affordable and reasonably timed public transportation from my suburban Chicago house to the bus location, I could not find a trip taking under 2 1/2 hours which would arrive in sufficient time that I would be sure to get on the bus. Although I did maximize my mileage by driving extremely evenly at 55 mpg (which appeared to yield better mileage than 60 mph), I drove 700 miles all by myself. What does that say about the state of public transportation, that in a major metropolitan area, I couldn’t find a cheap, efficient way to get 16 miles to a bus stop?

  22. arthur permalink
    November 30, 2008

    I burned Sierra Club members in my wood stove instead of cord wood all month.
    This is a win win as Club members consume O2 and accomplish no good while, trees benefit mankind. Save a tree, burn a Sierra Club member.

  23. David Jefferson permalink
    December 1, 2008

    I really wanted to travel to Chicago from Seattle. But I decided to travel just 100 feet from my home to my extended family’s home and had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I was able to keep in contact with my primary family via electronic slide shows.

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