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Driving vs. Flying: A Guide to Choosing the Best Travel Mode for the Environment

As advocates of reducing carbon footprints, we are committed to minimising our own emissions. Recently, we faced the decision of determining the most eco-friendly mode of transportation from Gisborne to Auckland. In light of this, we have created a comprehensive guide to assist you in understanding the carbon footprint differences between driving, flying, and taking the bus, to make an informed and environmentally responsible choice.

Carbon Footprint of Driving vs. Flying, or taking the bus

When assessing the carbon footprint of travel, three factors must be considered: distance travelled, vehicle type, and the number of passengers.

Distance Travelled:

Distance is a crucial determinant of the carbon footprint for both driving and flying. As the distance travelled increases, so does the carbon footprint. For example, driving cross-country results in higher emissions than a short flight. In the case of Auckland to Gisborne, Air New Zealand estimates a flying distance of 334 km, while driving it would be around 482 km.

Vehicle Type:

The type of vehicle also plays a significant role in determining the carbon footprint of driving. Larger vehicles, such as 4X4, produce more emissions than smaller, fuel-efficient cars. Similarly, older, larger planes emit more than newer, more fuel-efficient models.

Number of Passengers:

The number of passengers is an essential factor in the carbon footprint of both driving and flying. Carpooling with multiple passengers can significantly reduce emissions per person. Likewise, a fully occupied plane is more environmentally friendly than a partially filled one.

Carbon Footprint of Driving:

Several variables need to be considered when determining the carbon footprint of driving, including vehicle fuel efficiency, distance, and passenger count. Let's consider an example. Suppose you're

driving a medium-sized car over a distance of 482 km with one passenger. In that case, you emit approximately 118 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2). However, if you carpool with three other passengers, the emissions per person decrease to 39 kg of CO2 (less than flying).

Carbon Footprint of Flying:

Calculating the carbon footprint of flying requires factoring in distance, aircraft type, and passenger count. When we used the national average emission factor provided by the Ministry of Environment, the bus was the most environmentally friendly option for travel from Auckland to Gisborne. However, when we used Air New Zealand's emission factors, flying was the better option.


Based on our analysis of the factors affecting the carbon footprint of travelling to Auckland from Gisborne, the most eco-friendly options are taking the bus or flying. In general, for long-distance travel, flying is more environmentally friendly than driving. However, for short-distance travel with several passengers, driving can be the better option.

To sum up, when making travel plans, we urge you to consider the carbon footprint of your mode of transportation and choose the most sustainable option available. Let's all take steps towards reducing our carbon footprints and protecting the environment for future generations.


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