Infographic: The Greener Way to Get There

posted by Shannon on October 5th, 2011

Infographic: The Greener Way to Get There

Infographic: The Greener Way to Get There

The Greener Way to Get There

Among planes, trains, and automobiles—all’s not equal when it comes to their emissions. So what’s the greenest way to get around? It depends on how far you’re traveling. We break down the carbon footprint for a solo traveler embarking on different trips in various vehicles.

Going the Distance

Long-distance trip (2500 miles) roughly Los Angeles to New York

  • Large SUV (12 mpg): 5200 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Typical SUV (18 mpg): 3475 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Typical car (23 mpg): 2700 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Efficient car (32 mpg): 1950 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Hybrid car (46 mpg): 1350 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Average train: 1025 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Electric car (charged on the grid): 1025 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Wide-body jet: 931 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Bus: 425 pounds of CO2 per trip
Short-distance trip (350 miles) Roughly Los Angeles to San Francisco
  • Large SUV (12 mpg): 728 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Typical SUV (18 mpg): 487 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Typical car (23 mpg): 378 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Efficient car (32 mpg): 273 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Hybrid car (46 mpg): 222 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Average train: 189 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Electric car (charged on the grid): 144 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Wide-body jet: 144 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Bus: 60 pounds of CO2 per trip
Cross-city trip (20 miles)
  • Typical car (23 mpg): 21.6 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Diesel train: 9 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Electric car (charged on the grid): 8 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Electric train: 7 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Carpool in typical car: 6 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Bus: 3 pounds of CO2 per trip
  • Bicycle: 0 pounds of CO2 per trip
Why So Different?
Energy use and emissions from transportation are determined by four main factors:
  • Type of fuel or energy source
  • Type of vehicle
  • Distance traveled
  • Overall system infrastructure
Considering a detour?
Whenever possible, opt for nonstop flights. Takeoff, landing, and ground operations add a significant amount of emissions to a trip. More landing equals more emissions.
Thinking about an upgrade?
If you’re considering air travel, think twice before upgrading to that first-class seat. Seats in first-class or business-class areas take up more space, reducing the number of passengers that a flight can hold. Passengers in those seats are responsible for a greater portion of the plane’s emissions.
Going with company?
Because per-passenger carbon emissions decline as the number of passengers rises, it definitely pays to carpool. A driver in a car alone assumes all of the vehicle’s emissions, but if a spouse, friend, or whole family tags along, it can dramatically reduce the per-passenger footprint.

Road Warriors

Though large vehicles like buses and trains put out greater emissions than the average car, those emissions are shared among the larger vehicle’s passengers resulting in a smaller carbon footprint per person. So what if you can’t take public transit? An electric car wins out.

Typical gas-fueled car: 1.08 pounds of CO2/mile

Hybrid car (such as Chevy Volt): 0.54 pounds of CO2/mile

Electric car charged on electric grid (such as Nissan Leaf): 0.41 pounds of CO2/mile

When you’re driving them around, electric vehicles are emissions-free because they don’t burn anything, but they do have an ongoing carbon footprint when they’re charged on a coal-fired grid. Multiple studies confirm, however, that the environmental impact of doing this is still dramatically lower than driving a car with a combustion engine. Plus, that generates CO2 at a “point source” (a power plant) where it’s a bit easier to control and clean CO2 emissions versus a “non-point source” (cars) where CO2 emissions are harder to capture and clean.


The Greenest Ride of All

So what’s the best way to get around with the smallest carbon footprint? Charge an already eco-friendly electric car using solar panels. Even a small home solar system can charge an electric car for up to 15,000 miles a year. Larger systems can power even more.

1-2 kW: 15,000 miles for an electric car

3-5 kW: Zero dollars for household electricity.

Again, because electric cars are typically charged on the coal-fired grid, they still have somewhat of an ongoing carbon footprint, but if you charge your electric car using solar panels you ride is totally emissions free!


Sources:, Union of Concerned Scientists, NPR, Pew Center on Global Climate Change.


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One Block Off the Grid organizes group deals on solar energy. Since 2008, One Block Off the Grid has run hundreds of group deals in over 40 U.S. states and helped thousands of homeowners go solar. We’ve been featured in dozens of publications and programs including The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, USA Today, Marketplace, Wired, and GOOD Magazine. In 2010, One Block Off the Grid sponsored the first-ever solar deal on and received a Heart of Green Award for “Best New Innovation.” Want to find out if there’s a group deal on solar in your area? Sign up for One Block Off the Grid (it’s free). Not ready to go solar, but want to help take solar mainstream? Tell your friends about One Block Off the Grid.


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18 Responses to “Infographic: The Greener Way to Get There”

  1. Jonathan Melhuish says:

    Don’t forget that CO2 emissions don’t equate directly to the amount of global warming – emissions from a plane at altitude cause 2 to 3 times as much warming!

    Over here in Europe, almost all our long-distance trains are electric and an increasing amount of their power comes from renewable electricity, so they are a dramatically better option than planes or cars.

  2. Odile Beniflah says:

    Great Infographic!
    In Europe, beside the train, carpooling is also becoming incredibly popular. More than 2 million people use every month and this is definitely the way to go when you take the car.

  3. Jake Stott says:

    And also, this infographic doesn’t even take into account the pounds per person per mile traveled, which is a way more important number.

  4. Jake Stott says:

    According to the EPA, a gallon of gas contains 5.3 pounds of CO2. Assuming a “round trip” (which I don’t think this infographic is claiming), the amount of CO2 that this infographic claims is roughly 2.35 times More Than the ACTUAL amount of CO2 produced. This infographic is inflating the statistics by more then double what a vehicle produces in reality. Now I’m all for efficiency and less pollutants, but this over stating of facts needs to stop.

  5. Jack Nugent says:

    Ever wondered about the most carbon reduced forms of travel are? Here’s a cheat sheet. Info coming on motorcycles and mopeds…

  6. Edmundo Morales says:

    Bicycle is the future

  7. Kate Andrews says:

    @Jonathan Melhuish I agree. it would be really interesting to see the impact of flights put into perspective after accounting for the altitude of emissions. And perhaps as important, would be to display the effect of capacity of all these vehicles.

    I do love a good infographic but I think they can sometimes be more confusing than they are elucidating.

  8. Ev Now-now says:

    From research I’ve seen, the most efficient way to get around is using Electric Bicycles with 2 riders, charged using renewable energy. This is better than a cyclist who eats local organic food.

  9. Peera Boonyaprasop says:

    Thanks for the info.

  10. Juraj Vitko says:

    accept no less than zero-point energy

  11. Tony Adams says:

    Very informative graphic

  12. Harnpon Juapetch says:


  13. Óliver Olivo Batista says:


  14. Belinda Loftus says:

    Is there a way of printing out the different sections of the Greener Way to Get there infographic? I want to use the Around Town section in an exhibition I am putting together to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint.

  15. [...] 4. OK, so carpooling isn’t exactly a new concept… But, it’s ever-important. Did you know that carpooling just two days a week reduces CO2 emissions by 1,590 pounds a year? Just TWO days per week = 1,590 lbs. saved. Talk to your colleagues who live near you to set up a carpooling system. (Source: One Block Off the Grid) [...]

  16. Very informative. I think more people need to be aware of this.

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