Don’t Let The Emissions Grinch Steal Your Holiday

BY ON December 11, 2012

Santa in the airport

The holiday season is upon us. We’re on the move in planes, cars, trains, buses. Everyone is making plans…moving in different directions…trying to get home to family and friends.

This collective travel time finds many of us stuck in traffic, waiting in lines, and buying fast food along the interstate.

And yes, I know it may seem bah-humbug, but the holidays take a serious toll on the environment. We need to think about consuming less, taking our cloth bags shopping, and reusing gift bags instead of wrapping paper. But it’s the bigger environmental picture that is so impacted by our travel…our air and our climate.


Why is flying so harmful to our air and climate? Planes release large amounts of carbon dioxide in flight, and although this is a relatively small amount of our total carbon, it has a very large impact.

According to TIME:

“Commercial air travel is currently responsible for a relatively tiny part of the global carbon footprint —just 3.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But the unique chemistry of high-altitude jet emissions may produce an additional warming effect, while the explosive growth in air travel makes it one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon gases in the atmosphere. And unlike energy or automobiles, where carbon-free or lower-carbon alternatives already exist, even if they have yet to be widely adopted, there is no low-carbon way to fly, and there likely won’t be for decades.”

Flying increases global warming and harms air quality. Here are some ways to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling by airplane.


Many of us hop in the car for the holidays. This produces more emissions than our usual commutes and activities. More than 60% of U.S. transportation emissions come from cars and light trucks. According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

“Passenger cars and light trucks represent the lion’s share of U.S. transportation emissions and collectively produce more than one-fifth of the nation’s total global warming pollution. The remaining transportation emissions come from medium and heavy-duty vehicles (primarily freight trucks and buses), plus aircraft, shipping, rail, military, and other uses.”

And all of our extra driving, purchases online that require shipping, and the additional purchases of trucked in products leads to more emissions, poorer air quality, and increased global warming.

Speaking of emissions, if you read Moms Clean Air Force, you know about soot pollution. Soot is airborne pollution that lodges deep in the lungs and cannot be easily expelled, which is why it causes so much health damage.

Pollution from soot has been linked to health problems such as heart attacks, stroke, and premature death. Soot pollution is particularly harmful to children, causing asthma attacks and respiratory distress and decreasing lung function and development; soot has also been linked to infant deaths from SIDS and higher infant mortality.

Bah, humbug!

But there is hope. Here’s how to reduce your impact from driving:

  • buy a car the gets good gas mileage
  • carpool when possible
  • combine errands to reduce trips
  • remove roof top luggage racks and bike racks to improve your efficiency
  • follow these better mileage tips
  • use public transportation or catch a train

Whatever your plans are this holiday season, remember that your actions make a measurable difference. Together we can make changes both big and small, local, national and global. Happy Holidays!


TOPICS: Air Pollution, Clean Air Rules and Regulations, Pollution