Think You Are “Green”? Think Again.

So, you always take public transportation because you think it is the “green” thing to do.  Well, it turns out that driving an SUV may be greener than riding the train.  A new study shows that if a broad range of factors are considered, the picture of what causes the greatest carbon impact on the environment changes.

The study focuses on the emissions of a mode of transportation over the long term.  This means that the emmissions spent building roads, railways, airports, etc. must be factored into the equation.  Of course, this also means that the emmissions spent on maintaining the transportation infrastructure must also be considered.

Another thing to consider is the occupancy level of the transportation.  An SUV filled with four or five passengers could be more efficient than a passenger train that is only a quarter filled.

There are other factors to consider as well.  I suggest reading the article.  The study gives us a more complete picture of how green some things truly are.

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8 Responses to Think You Are “Green”? Think Again.

  1. Pingback: Think You Are “Green”? Think Again.

  2. aaron says:

    First, this is not new news to those of us that have taken an active look at this issue for a number of years now. Basically, you have to look at the output of emmissions pro ratta to the number of people using that mode of transportation. A jet filled with 136 people is most likely more favorable than 136 cars driving to the exact same place.

    Also, take into account that distance traveled. A train idles less, takes fewer mile to go to the same destination since it does not follow the road system, and the entire point here is to get MORE people on the public transportation to use those scales of economy. It IS more favorable when the train/bus is full.

  3. Tim Farley says:


    Good to hear from you. I hope you are doing well. I just want to make sure that you do not think I am against being “environmentally friendly”. I am just pointing out that there are other things that go into how we make our decisions than just miles-per-gallon. We have to think about total impact – and this includes the impact of building and maintaining the infrastructure. While it may be true that if the infrastructure is already in place it makes sense to use it. However, a study like this shows that it may not always be a good idea to put in new infrastructure when the environmental cost of doing so, along with the cost of maintaing it, is weighed against the benefits of having it (e.g. if the train is not going to have a certain number of riders).

  4. aaron says:

    First, I love yoour blog. I recall our conversations back in Ohio on like topics. I always love these. My wife I and I have them frequently. You, like her, always offer well constructed thoughts, not just “heart felt” sound bites. Also, I don;t think you are not environmentally friendly, I know yo uare a devout chhristian and I guess I assume that also makes you a good steward towards the earth.

    When I moved to Charlotte in 2005, they were in the middle of building a light rail system that a conservative group tried to have stopped. They hired a noted professor that does traffic studies from UNC. They claimed that the ridership would fall short of the cities expectations by more than half. The city said the ridership would be around 9,000 a day and would increase to 18,000 15 years later.

    The ridership is averages about 18,000 already just two years after opening. What these studies seem to miss is the lighter traffic, cleaner air, l and less traffic issues that increase mass transit brings.

  5. aaron says:

    Also, I am going to comment on everything on your site. I everyone agrees with your statements, including me, I will make oppose the view just because someone has to, or else how c?n a real discussion be made!

  6. Tim Farley says:


    I am glad you found my blog and that you like it. Feel free to disagree with me, whether it be for real or just for the sake of discussion. I often argue the other side just to debate on some of the blogs I follow.

    You said: “I know you are a devout christian and I guess I assume that also makes you a good steward towards the earth.”

    Unfortunately, Christians tend to be poor at caring for the environment. While I believe it is unbiblical to abuse God’s creation, some have a mentality that this world is going to end someday, so it does not matter what we do to it now. This attitude is changing among Christians, but it is still very prevalent.

  7. Jeff Lahr says:

    Transportation is just one green issue. I’m also interested in the issue of sustainable food production. The environmental cost of producing our food, along with government subsidies to certain crop famers, the use of petrolium based fertilizers, waasteul packaging, and especially the cost of transporting food products from around the world convinces me to:
    1) to buy local produce
    2) be willing to pay a little more for environmentally friendly food.

  8. Tim Farley says:


    Wasteful packaging on all products, not just food, is an area that really bothers me. Your other points are also good.

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