Celebrate Earth Day ... At Home

| 4/22/2011 3:13:22 PM

Tags: air travel, transportation, carbon footprint, Cam Mather,


Years ago I saw a great graph on how many kilojoules of energy it would take to travel 3 km (1.7 miles). Since the various modes of transportation would burn different types of fuel to get there, the energy unit used was “kilojoules” (kJ) which can be common for all types.

transportation graph 

Riding a bicycle was the most efficient way to travel. Your body would require the calories contained in an apple to travel that distance on a bike. If you walked you’d require a banana or a slice of bread for the 250 kJ you’d need. Walking is less efficient than riding a bike because you don’t have those wonderful round wheels and gears increasing the efficiency of your muscles. A bus or train is a little less efficient, but since there are number of people on the same bus or train, you’re spreading the energy use over more people. And driving a car is really, really, inefficient. It takes 130 kJ to cycle that distance and 6,500 kJ to drive a car!

Take a look at the energy that would be required to fly that distance and it’s insane. 300,000 kJ. Oh the journey would only take 10 seconds but it would use a climate-altering amount of energy to do so.

When I was doing some research for my book “Thriving During Challenging Times” I tried to find verifiable, reputable secondary sources to confirm this amount but it was difficult to find a number that was consistent. The figures were all over the place. There are just so many variables when it comes to air travel. What’s the type of jet? Is it long haul or short haul? How many people are on the plane? Etc. etc. So my chart here is an approximation from a number of sources.

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