Labor Day Travel and Green Guilt


If you’re like me, planning on doing a good deal of traveling to get to your holiday revelries this Labor Day Weekend, then maybe you feel similar to how I felt this morning – full of major green guilt. So far I’ve already logged more than 400 miles by way of a road trip to Los Angeles in a 2006 Honda Civic, emitting some hundreds of pounds of carbon emissions into the air with the rest of the early weekend road warriors. And I’m thinking of flying back, which would make me responsible for an additional 431 lbs of CO2 emissions, according to TerraPass.

As the editor of an eco-tech Web site, knowing my travel plans have such an impact on the environment for the sole purpose of beach-going, onion-dip-eating Labor Day fun doesn’t make me feel so good. So I decided to search the Web to see what carbon offsets or other tools I could use to help my carbon footprint – or at the very least, alleviate some of my guilt.

Since the easiest way to relieve travel-induced green guilt is through carbon offsets, I thought I’d start with that. Paying money to offset your carbon footprint is a controversial, rapidly growing and unregulated industry. The theory is that paying a company to invest in projects that reduce carbon, such as planting forests, offsets the carbon emitted by your own actions. Critics compare these companies to absolution. Check out some of the dangers of the industry in this detailed Washington Post article.

There are so many carbon offset companies out there, it’s hard to keep track of them all. We decided to check out TerraPass, since we had chatted with the CEO Tom Arnold last month, and the site says I can buy offsets for flights that covers 2,500 lbs CO2 for $9.95. TerraPass says its funds go to “industrial efficiency” and “renewable energy projects such as wind farms.” OK, so $10 to feel a bit better? Why not?

Yet such easy, clickable actions as these leave me feeling a little hollow inside. What else can I do? Well, what I should have done is a better job of planning my road trip. Efficient driving can actually reduce emissions, so I shouldn’t have been accelerating as fast as I did through the highway 5 grapevine, nor should I have timed my trip to land me smack in the middle stop-and-go L.A. rush hour (for sanity and the environment).

While I did catch a ride with a friend and reduced the need for two cars driving toward the same goal, I probably should have also asked around to see if others looking to make the Bay Area-to-L.A. drive this weekend could have joined us as well. Or I could have taken a bus — the MegaBus, for example, makes a one-way trip for $20 to $40.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t have access to a green car like the Tesla Roadster (which we checked out earlier this week), or even a Prius. But I could have rented a more eco-friendly car and stopped by EV Rental Cars.

Rather than offsetting after the fact, I could have taken some significant steps ahead of time to reduce my carbon footprint this Labor Day weekend. Instead of flying back, I’m now actually seriously considering the MegaBus option. And you, dear readers, might still have time to make some changes too. Just think — you won’t have to end up like me this morning, already hung over from green guilt.


Paul Covell

Next time you can try to use Goloco ( , a new service by one of the founders of Zipcar, that allows you to post your upcoming trips to your social network, using either their site or Facebook add-in.

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