Plane vs. Car

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Air travel is a large contributor to global warming and a woefully unsustainable practice. You often hear that a person could do every climate-friendly thing they could think of for a year and any associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions could be wiped for that person as soon as they step on a plane for a single flight. As people who love to travel but who are equally concerned about climate change, this poses a rather difficult existential challenge for us.

There are plenty of articles on the topic for those who want to learn more (like this one from CBC), but we have recently had our own revelation. Over the last few years we have avoided air travel as much as possible and have opted instead to drive our fuel efficient little Corolla whenever we plan a journey. For our upcoming trip to South America this simply didn’t seem like a realistic option, so we grudgingly bit the bullet and booked a flight, while also purchasing offsets to make up for the GHG emissions we were responsible for (or at least appeasing our guilt for those emissions)… and we were a little surprised at the numbers that came up!

Using the quick and easy calculation tool on, we learned that our share of the emissions for our flights from Regina to Santiago with a stopover in Toronto will be about 3.45 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which would cost $103 to offset by supporting Gold-Standard projects around the world. Just for curiosity, we also ran the numbers for how much out little Corolla emits for the approximate 24,000 km we drive it every year. The result? 3.37 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which would cost $101 to offset… meaning driving our car FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR is the same as getting on a one way flight to South America. Ouch!

In the summer we’ll need to find a way from South America to Europe… anybody know how to find passage aboard a boat?

Featured image attribution: Sergey Kustov [CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL]

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