Which Is Worse for the Environment: Driving or Flying?

And now for another layer of complication: A longer flight is more efficient than a shorter flight or one with multiple layovers. “A large share of fuel in flying is consumed during takeoff and landing, so the greater the distance, the smaller the relative fuel consumption burden from takeoff and landing is on the overall flight,” explains Nicholas Muller, PhD, a professor of Economics, Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. In fact, a NASA report from 2010 states that a quarter of airplane emissions come from landing and taking off, with taxiing being the largest source…

The most eco-friendly way to reach your destination may not be by car or airplane. According to an ICCT report, on comparable trips in the United States, a plane gets 43 miles per gallon per person; this is less efficient than trains or cars, which get 51 mpg and 53 mpg per person, respectively. Interurban buses are, by far, the most efficient at 152 mpg per individual.