Spring Breaks the Environment

By: Sofia Liszka

One week from today, the Miami student population will empty out of Oxford. With spring break on the brain, there’s little desire to think about anything besides being back at home or traveling to spend the break elsewhere. Yet, as we drive (or better yet, carpool) away from campus, our environmental footprints don’t hang back, either. While families and friends all around the country pack their bags and finalize travel plans, it’s worth exploring how this much-needed break inevitably impacts the environment.

Each year’s winter resurfaces daydreams of new spring getaways and destinations. As we book trips, on the infrastructural end, airports have to prepare for the influx of travelers. This year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “expects to screen approximately 107 million passengers and crew from March 14 to April 28, which is an increase of more than 3 percent compared to the same period last year,” according to an agency announcement from earlier this month. Carbon emissions from aircraft are a year-round reality, but the cause of those emissions does lie within our travel habits, which do spike during times like spring break.

It is well-known that global emissions largely draw from the vein of transportation. In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that just under 30 percent of our national emissions can be attributed to the transportation sector. While transportation is a natural part of our lives, it can be eye-opening to consider the magnitude of sources from which this statistic is constructed. For example, to have close to 16,000 students leave Oxford already seems huge: what if we consider all the other college campuses around the country that get out of class on the same day?

On a different note, while not all have vacation plans for spring break, warmer weather understandably brings out the latest excuse to do some online shopping. Often overlooked are the environmental impacts of purchases we make from our laptops and phones. After we click to confirm the order for some new shorts, shoes, bathing suits or anything else that happens to make its way into the shopping bag, those items are packaged up and shipped to our doorsteps. Outside of what inputs create the goods we buy, additional resources are used to package those purchases and take them the distance, often across the country, to their destinations. Admittedly, it does seems odd to consider these ‘life cycles’ of consumer products. The lengthy paths that goods take in production and delivery never really cross our minds when the doorbell rings: we’re just happy if the package shows up on time.

These harsh truths aren’t meant to eradicate air travel and online shopping, but this discussion does reiterate an important point about the individual environmental impacts we make. Carbon emissions are rooted in everyday life, but as individuals, that doesn’t excuse us from being conscious of the impact we do have. At this level, most continue to carry on with life as planned, hopefully trying to make small improvements, but it’s always fun to see some extremes that people go to for the planet they care about.

Popular environmental mantra pushes us to “leave no trace”: you don’t have to be camping in the wilderness this spring break to leave a place looking the same as, if not better than, you originally found it. Safe travels, and happy spring!

If you are interested in green travel tips, check out this piece from Justin Sablich of the New York Times.

Image via Pixabay

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