Green Travel – Take the Bus

Riding the bus is good for the planet and your wallet.

Enjoy your vacation and cut your travel carbon emissions 55-77% by opting to take a bus instead of flying. Let’s embrace vacationing and protecting the planet.

On a recent vacation, my mother and I chose to travel by bus instead of flying. This post chronicles my experience riding on a long-distance Greyhound bus for the first time. It was better than I expected.

Getting from Point A to B

Last year, I told my mother I would be willing to take a vacation with her as long as it did not involve airplanes because flying has a huge environmental impact and I do not like any aspect of air travel.

A few months ago, she proposed the idea of going on motor coach tour that would take us to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks. I was excited about the prospect of visiting the national parks and looked forward to spending time with my mother.

With the decision made to go on the tour, we now needed to work out our travel logistics.

First, I would need to get from where I live in San Luis Obispo, CA to my mother’s home in Los Angeles several hundred miles to the south. We then needed to travel to Scottsdale, AZ where the tour began and later get back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, NV where the tour ended. Lastly, I needed to get back home.

For the first and last legs of the trip, I could have driven my car, flown out of and into our small airport, or taken a bus. I chose to take the Amtrak train because I could stretch out and relax.

Getting to Phoenix and back to Los Angeles on the Greyhound bus seemed feasible so we booked the tour, bought our bus tickets, and arranged for transportation from Phoenix to Scottsdale.

Riding the Greyhound Bus

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of our Phoenix-bound Greyhound trip, one of my mother’s friends dropped us off at the tiny Claremont bus station a few miles away from her house. Check in was easily accomplished but I had forgotten the free voucher for my second piece of luggage so I had to pay $15 for it.

The bus originated in Los Angeles and made one stop before arriving in Claremont several minutes past its target arrival time of 8:05 a.m. A few people got off and then the bus driver checked our tickets and loaded our luggage under the bus.

We walked to the third row and I managed to shove the tote bag carrying our lunch through the bungee cords into the overhead storage rack, which in not as roomy as airplane overhead bins. We kept our filled reusable water bottles and a knapsack containing snacks, reading material, and outerwear at our seats. I anticipated the air conditioning might make it cold on the bus but it was a pleasant temperature throughout the trip.

The safety belt equipped leather seats were about as comfortable as airplane seats with a tiny bit more legroom. The seat could recline, but like on an airplane if you reclined more than a little bit it would be unpleasant for the person behind you. There were two electrical outlets in each 2-seat row and free Wi-Fi throughout the bus. The windows were large and tinted. We settled in for the seven-hour ride, which would take us through mostly desert terrain on our way to Phoenix.

San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm Near Palm Springs, CA
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm Near Palm Springs, CA – Photo Kit Conn

There was an onboard restroom, which we did not use. Perhaps I should have at least looked at it for research purposes but I supposed it was like an airplane lavatory, minuscule and sometimes not too clean.

As I looked about, I noticed that the bus driver cockpit was backed by what looked like a thick plexiglass divider and that a full height plexiglass gate had been pulled across the aisle separating the driver from the passengers.

A mother and her small daughter were sitting across the aisle entertaining themselves with a collection of dolls outfitted as various Disney characters. The background noise increased as the day wore on and more people boarded the bus but it was still a lot quieter than an airplane.

In Riverside, the man who had been sleeping in one of the front row seats got off the bus so my mother and I moved up front. Being in the front row made the journey more enjoyable but I think the third row would have been okay too.

Our first chance to leave the bus for a few minutes was at the San Bernardino station. I got off to use the restroom and stretch my legs. The station was larger and could accommodate several buses letting off and taking on passengers at the same time. We were the only bus at the station but it was busy with people at the counter and milling about the waiting room.

Our final stop before reaching Phoenix was for a lunch break in hot and windy Blythe near the Arizona state line. The Blythe bus station consisted of a few picnic tables outside of a gas station with a sizable minimart. I wrestled our lunch out of the overhead rack and we ate it outside while trying to keep everything from flying away.

After lunch, we gained one more passenger, a woman lugging an inordinate amount of carry-on totes and bags. The bus driver informed us that if all went well we would arrive in Phoenix on time in a little more than two hours.

Entering Arizona from California on Interstate 10
Entering Arizona from California on Interstate 10 – Photo Brandy Jenkins

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we did arrive in Phoenix on time at about 3:15 p.m. Our luggage was immediately available right next to the bus. The Phoenix station was large with space for about a dozen buses and inside there was even a security line. We met our ride outside the entrance and headed to the Scottsdale hotel where we would later meet our tour group.

From the time we left my mother’s house in the morning until we exited the Phoenix bus station with our luggage, we had invested about 8 hours in traveling by bus. Had we flown, getting to the airport, waiting, flying, and collecting our luggage would have taken at about 4 hours or more if the flight was delayed. So either way, we would have devoted a day to travel.

Unseen circumstances foiled our plan to take the Greyhound from Las Vegas back to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, my mother became ill during the tour and a long bus ride home with a layover in San Bernardino did not seem like it would be good for her wellbeing so we ended up flying from Las Vegas to Ontario and taking a cab to her house.

In the end, even though we did not completely accomplish our goal of no air travel, we had a good time and did substantially lower our travel environmental footprint. I also discovered that bus travel is more pleasant than I anticipated.

The next time you are planning a vacation, consider the taking the bus. It is good for the planet and your wallet.

Featured Image at Top: Greyhound Bus Interior with Passengers – Photo by Greyhound Lines

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Arbor Day 2017 – Hug a Tree, Plant a Tree

Linda Poppenheimer The Unlikely Environmentalist at Green Groundswell
Author hugging a tiny fir tree on Mount St. Helens, WA in August 2014

In honor of National Arbor Day on April 28, 2017, hug a tree and then plant a tree.

“He who plants a tree plants a hope.” —Lucy Larcom

Arbor Day Beginnings

Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska pioneer from Detroit, Michigan was instrumental in bringing about the first Arbor Day. He advocated planting trees for practical reasons and probably because he and other pioneers missed the trees they had left behind in their more forested native states. The first Arbor Day was on April 10, 1872. Nebraska gained nearly a million trees that day.

The Arbor Day movement grew and spread to other states and to other countries. At some point, the last Friday in April became the official day to observe National Arbor Day. However, dates vary by state and country to coincide with the best tree-planting weather.

Trees Give Life

Trees are beautiful in their own right. They collaborate with other trees, plants, and wildlife to form complex and self-sustaining ecosystems. People know that trees are important but we do not necessarily understand how everything ties together.

Long before people came along, trees were growing in most places on Earth.

Once we arrived on the scene, our ancestors soon discovered how to make use of trees whether it was just enjoying their shade on a hot day, harvesting fruit or nuts for food, or gathering twigs and branches and burning them for heat and cooking.

At some point, people realized they could cut down trees and make a myriad of things from wood like buildings, furniture, and paper. We also figured out that certain trees contain medicinal properties and produce useful items like latex and resin. Later we learned about how trees grow and function, that they take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, store carbon, prevent erosion, filter water, and influence rainfall.

So you would think, or at least I would, that we would protect the trees growing now and replace the trees that have been lost through natural causes or our own folly.

I am trying to do my part on our little plot of land and supporting tree planting in other areas. Please do your part by either planting a tree yourself or enabling someone else to plant one on your behalf.

I was a Tree Hugger before I became a Tree Hugger

Trees have always been fascinating to me. Each one is unique. Trees are beautiful swaying in the wind or silhouetted black against a fading sunset. They make their own music with the rustling of dry leaves, the whispering of pine needles, or the roaring of trees whipping back and forth in a windstorm.

Trees are smart working with other nature community members to the benefit of the whole. They are also competitive and strong. The trees that grow towards the sun and spread their branches the fastest get the most sunlight. If injury or illness befalls a tree, it will attempt to heal itself even giving up a limb if necessary.

I talk to trees and I have hugged quite a few trees. It would be cool if trees could talk to people. Maybe trees can talk, but we do not understand their language, yet, or perhaps they choose not to talk with us.

It would be interesting to hear the stories trees could tell about what has occurred around the location they have occupied for decades or even centuries.

Imagine living your entire life in the same location. I do not mean the same house or the same town I mean the same exact spot. That is what a tree does.

A bird, bee, animal, the wind, or gravity transports tree pollen or seeds to a location. If something or someone does not eat it and the conditions are favorable, a tiny seedling sprouts. Healthy soil, adequate water, sufficient sunlight, lack of predators, and genetics all contribute to helping the tree grow and live to a ripe old age. When the tree dies, it nurtures the soil and wildlife where it lived, completing the circle.

I observe trees and wonder about things like how does a tree feel when its neighbor falls over in a storm and ends up tangled in its branches. Is the tree wishing it could shrug off the fallen tree? Does it try communicating the tree equivalent of “Please get off me?”

Does a tree feel sad when a tree that has been standing next to it for 75 years dries up and withers away during a drought? Does it feel survivor guilt? When seedlings appear beneath a grown tree, does it happily welcome them as new members of the family?

Where I live now, in the heart of struggling forest of Monterey pine trees that have suffered 5 years of severe drought, I feel bereft whenever a tree dies and joy whenever I spot a new seedling.

I love trees, yet I am a heavy user of wood and paper. What can I do? What can you do?

  1. Go hug a few trees and thank them for everything they give us.
  2. Be mindful and grateful for the things you use that are made of wood and paper, and do not waste them.
  3. Make planting at least one tree an annual tradition. If you cannot plant a tree yourself, then support someone who can. If Arbor Day is not a good tree-planting day where you live, then pick a day that is.

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel.” —Aldo Leopold

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