I began my pre-trip journey on the Carbon Footprint calculator, adding up the emissions for my various travel options from Vancouver BC to Monterey CA.

Distance: 2,810 km
CO2 emissions if traveling by air: .67 tonnes
CO2 emissions if traveling by car (@ 9L/100km): .586 tonnes
CO2 emissions if traveling by rail: .169 tonnes (about the weight of my carry-on)

This made the choice pretty straightforward from a purely environmental standpoint. I then compared the cost  of air with rail:

Air: $284.05 Return
Travel time: 7hrs 38 Minutes (each way)
Additional costs – Taxes: $81.66
Total: $365.71

Rail: $208. Return
Travel time: 30 hours (each way!)
Additional costs – Food, magazines and enough bar car booze to anesthetize me sufficiently to sleep in a train seat: $150
Total: $358

So, costs being somewhat equal, I looked for the Amtrak customer communications that were going to make me feel eco-righteous enough to make up for sleeping in my clothes like a hobo.  I had to dig surprisingly deep on their web site just to find this bit:

Amtrak Ticket Jacket“The environment is a precious resource that we should all do our best to protect and rail travel is at the head of the class when it comes to eco-friendly travel. Trains consume less energy and produce less harmful pollutants than either car or air travel. Hopping on an Amtrak train will save you gas and daily wear and tear on your car. It also reduces the ever-increasing traffic congestion on the roads and in the skies.”

Wow. So what about their advertising?

Here’ s link to a 2007 Amtrak ad. Not a peep about CO2. Likewise in this Amtrak campaign from DDB Seattle, featuring a talking car and a strange little fairy godmother-thing that stirs your coffee and holds the curtains back. Creepy, but not green.

Last, but not least, when I received my Amtrak tickets, the sleeve was wall-to-wall paid advertising, featuring such eco-inspirations as the Teletubbies. Even creepier.

Ground Transportation

I tried my hardest to rent a hybrid car. Really, I did. There is one company that rents them, FOX Rent-a-car, but they only have locations at airports. For those guilty plane travelers, I guess. So I decided to rent a bike. It’s my main mode of travel around Vancouver, so why not Monterey?

Wacky Pedal RideThe Bay Bikes Rental web site looks well-equipped and convenient. And they’re open on Sunday when I arrive. They also rent this cool ‘Surrey’ pedal-mobile that would look pretty swank pulling up to the valet parking at the Hyatt!

Green Hotel?

Once again, there was little or no eco-marketing on the accommodations side of things. The Sustainable Brands 08 web site gushes about the sustainable initiatives of their host hotel, the Hyatt Regency Monterey. But even at the discounted rate of $205 a night, my Scottish Wallet Sustainability Gene forced me to seek an alternative that would use less of my personal green.

I found it in the Monterey Oceanside Inn. I’m sure the tightly-cropped snapshots don’t do it justice. But after 30 hours on a train, it’s going to be heaven.

One in a series of articles on Lorne’s Sustainable Journey to the Sustainable Brands 08 Conference in Monterey CA. Click here for the full list of sessions, or here for the ‘Fear & Loathing’ road trip journals.

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