Why Time and Money Are the Rule for Green Travel

3 min read

Sometimes it seems like there are so many issues in the world, and there’s not enough time or enough me to devote myself to all of them. But one issue that sticks like a craw in my throat, that makes me particularly worked up is that of the environment and the climate crisis.

In the small ways that I know, I’ve attempted to be more environmentally conscious. One of the ways I’ve struggled the most to improve my environmental impact is with transportation.

In particular, when I lived further away from work, I used public transportation as soon as I figured it out. It was a little longer than a vehicular commute, but worth the trade in lowering my stress and feeling good about getting off the road. It was more expensive than what I paid in gas, but worth it.

Once I moved closer to my work, I found public transportation suddenly miserable. If you can believe it, public transportation more than tripled my commute time. Furthermore, the bus became a misery when people stepped on who weren’t wearing deodorant. It became such a struggle to justify why I was doing it. I felt like I was robbing myself of two or more hours from my day.

So, you guessed it, I went back to the car. But the choice still weighs on me. I wonder if I can fit in a day or two of bus commute again–despite essentially losing money I then spent on a car parking permit.

This kind of curious trade off is something I’ve been thinking about recently, especially after reading an article from the The Guardian called I didn’t want to fly – so I took a cargo ship from Germany to Canada. I’ll preface by saying: Great article, I really admire this person for not only making the effort but putting their money and time on the line.

But let’s talk about that money and time. I’m a middle income family who is keenly aware of how precarious the middle class situation in America is, currently. I’m very comfortable in my life, but I know how fast that can change, especially as someone who interacts with the health industry on a regular basis. It’s a fact of life in America that one medical catastrophe can ruin your finances–not even the insured are protected.

Well, look at the numbers on that green travel trip. Will Vilbert spent $1500 on the cargo boat and it took him 15 days to get to Canada. Once there, he took a train to get across the country–a week’s journey. Just getting to his destination took the better part of a month.

Who the hell has 22 days to spend getting to their destination? What average working person is able to spend that much leave from work, much less pay for it? I work at place with a very generous leave policy, but that is how much annual leave I earn in a year. Most Americans don’t get that.

I realize this is an extreme example of one man’s journey to travel as green as possible–that’s part of what makes it such an interesting piece to read. But as Trump rolls back environmental protections on a national level and as my own local area continues to focus on widening roads rather than investing in aggressive measures to improve mass transportation, Vilbert’s journey feels like more of the rule than the exception for so many green measures.

To me, it says that if you want to be green on an individual level, you better have a lot of money and a lot of time. You better be the exception rather than the rule.


Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash

2 Replies to “Why Time and Money Are the Rule for Green Travel”

  1. Yes, you’ve hit upon the deep underbelly of this issue. It’s all wonderful and satisfying to make “green decisions” when we can. However, an element of reality needs to be considered. As you say, most folks have neither the time, energy or money to do all that we’d like to do to contribute. This is, of course, due to the lack of foresight, courage & leadership of our elected officials. They have known perfectly well the results of not building more public transportation that is convenient and cost effective. The non-existence of nationwide affordable, fast train travel is a disgrace. Where are the green sources of energy? Where is the carbon capture plan?

    So, we do what we can, when we can and vote for candidates that have the same perspective and urgency that we do. It must be a priority for the sake of future generations. We’re running out of time….

    1. Yes, my conversations with others often circle back to the same idea: With a problem this large, solutions are the most effective from a systemic scope. Which makes it all the more frustrating to see the nation at large failing to tackle it. It feels like voting isn’t enough, but again–for the average person, who has the time and energy and understanding to do more?

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