Unplugged, Part II: The Planes, Cars & Boats of our Green-ish Vacation

August 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm 2 comments

Contributed by Dr. Sarah Warren

Let’s talk about planes, cars and boats, shall we?

In Part I of this blog thread, I talked about how our family benefits from unplugging on an island with no electricity, running water or Internet– a pretty low eco impact vacation. In this installment, I talk about the eco impact of getting to and from our pristine little island in Maine with a 6 year-old DudeSter and an 8 year-old HamSter.   And to foreshadow– In my third and  final post about our “green-ish” vacation, I’ll talk about what makes it green-ish, above and beyond the obvious lack of electricity.

First, in case you missed the photo in my previous blog post on why we subject ourselves to the deprivations of this island, here is another photo to give you a sense:

Now on to those planes, cars and boats…

All of our dominant modes of transportation have some form of impact on the environment, mostly from the fossil fuels they burn, and the heat-trapping emissions they kick into our atmosphere.

I wanted to know just what that impact was. So…

I calculated just how many polluting emissions we generated.

According to infoplease.com, the kids and I flew 851 miles each way from Chicago to Boston.

Using Bonneville Environmental Foundations’s carbon footprint calculator (b-e-f.org/carbon/calc/), I find that our flight generated 1331 pounds of C02 per person– our most common form of heat-trapping pollution.

We drove around the Boston area for a couple of days before we went up to the Sebago Lake region in ME, including a visit to my sister’s for a pre-island visit with the cousins. And our drive to and from Redbones Restaurant (redbones.com) in Somerville, MA (a tasty jumping off point!) to the island in Maine? 210 miles roundtrip.

I’m adding a few miles for getting lost en route from Redbones to the airport (so tasty we had to stop on the way back.)  We had a very stressful dash to the airport when I missed the turn, in a very Boston driving experience, out of Sumner tunnel! Thankfully, the dudes in the backseat were oblivious to my stress as the driver– lost in Boston with a flight to catch!

So I’m using 300 miles as a pretty close estimate of our driving miles.

We were driving around in a Mitsubishi Endeavor, a large rented SUV– just what the rental car company had that was big enough for us and our stuff. Not a clean- burning hybrid, and not the most fuel-efficient vehicle on the road! I estimate that we got 21 MPG on the highway, which was the majority of our driving.

The driving added 281 pounds of C02 emissions to our trip’s eco impact.

About the boats part of the equation. The skiff that we ride from the shore to the island? Well, I’m not counting that 10 minute boat ride because Bonneville’s carbon footprint calculator doesn’t include boats (and I’ve not seen one that does). I’m pretty sure the impact of that short boat ride is below the threshold of the carbon calculator– but I do want to say that the two-stroke motors that power many smaller power boats are not only very leaky but very inefficient. Not eco friendly!

So even when we take vacations that seem like they shouldn’t have much eco impact– like a camping trip, say– we still might want to consider the impact of getting to and from our destination.

In order to compensate for– oroffset — our eco impact, I’m buying carbon offsets from Bonneville Environmental Foundation (b-e-f.org), which are green-e certified.

A quick explanation– Green-e (green-e.org) certified offsets (the only kind I recommend) ensure that for every unit of fossil fuel based energy you use, an equal amount of renewable energy is generated– hence the “offset” concept.  I buy from Bonneville because they are highly regarded in the industry.

The bottom line: The cost per person to buy 1612 pounds worth of credits towards renewable energy from Bonneville? A whopping $22 per person!

What are your eco travel stories? How do you assess your eco impact? What do you do to minimize or “offset” your eco impact? Post a comment! Share your story!

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Unplugged, Part I: An Unlikely Environmentalist Subjects Her Family to a Vacation Without Electricity or Running Water Unplugged, Part III: Our Green-ish Family Vacation in Maine

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Karen  |  August 11, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    I hope your time on the island will be a memorable experience.

    • 2. DrSarah  |  August 25, 2011 at 5:15 am

      Yes, we always create great memories! Thanks for the thought!


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