By Dan

I bet you’re wondering how an environmental science major can take a 7-week road trip across the US and not feel a tad bit guilty about all the emissions.


Well I do, and so does Casey.  So we’ve decided to do  something about it. I consulted the EPA Website and did some number crunching to find out the exact impact our cross-country trip will have.

Here we go: for each gallon of gasoline burned, .00892 metric tons of CO2 are emitted. Including the miles driven while being lost–because we will get lost–our trip will more than likely be around 9,000 miles. My stylish yet petrol consuming Volvo station wagon puts out an average of 20 miles per gallon. So here’s the math:

(.00892 metric tons CO2/1 gallon gas) * (9,000 miles/1 trip) * (1 gallon gas/20 miles)

I plugged the ratios into my handy TI83 and it displayed a number I found quite surprising. 4.014 metric tons of CO2 will be emitted during our trip! According to the EPA, the average vehicle miles traveled during the entire year of 2007 was around 11,720 miles. I am beginning to understand how epic this road trip is actually going to be. Now that I really feel guilty, there must be some way we can negate our carbon footprint and put our ecotourism ideals to work…..

Pitstop on the 19 hour trip to NYC through the blizzard of 09

Scrolling down the EPA website a little further brings me to a section about planting trees. If you’ve flown recently, you might have been asked if you would like to contribute a few dollars to plant tress and negate the carbon emitted by the plane. This is the same idea. Using the following formula, you can calculate how many new trees would be needed to offset the carbon from your miles traveled.  On average, medium growth coniferous trees, over 10 years in urban environments, uptake .039 metric tons of CO2 per tree. SOO

(4.0185 metric tons CO2/1 trip) * (1 tree/.039 metric tons CO2) comes out to:

103 trees grown for 10 years in urban environments to make a 9000 mile road trip carbon neutral.

While we are fully aware that this is not a perfect system, planting trees seems like a pretty good way to make road-tripping a little more sustainable.  We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback!! Do you think it’s a feasible idea?

And of course, please don’t forget that we are still in a competition to become Isla Palenque’s first island interns, and we still need more votes!!  Please click here for the video, information about the internship, and more ways to help if you have already voted :-)