I’ve been on hiatus – which I always feel is a pompous way of saying I haven’t written for a while. But please forgive my pompousness just this once. I’ve truly been gone – by train.
And, as always, I loved every minute of it.
See, it’s important to know, I’m not a train virgin. This was like my fifth rumble on the tracks, and I almost hate to admit it, but with each trip we take, it becomes an increasingly lustful addiction. I can’t seem to get enough (and I mean that in a non-sexual way… no really…well pretty much).
But of course, it’s not just the rhythm that makes rail-riding a favorite of mine. The panoramic views, the slower pace, the amazing people I meet – they also register in my top ten.
But as a proud greenie, always looking for ways to get from here to there without clogging the air in between, I like the idea of replacing oodles of smoggy cars with one long ribbony people-mover.
Here’s what Amtrak says about the environmental benefits of train travel on their website: “Traveling by train generates a lesser amount of carbon dioxide than either car or air travel.” This is a good thing.
But don’t they puff along belching thick clouds of smoke? you ask.
Well, like most things, the system’s not perfect. Certainly emissions are part of the package; but Amtrak has actually “committed to a 6 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions” from their diesel locomotive fleet from 2003-2010 (based upon emissions from 1997-2001). As members of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), they also make “voluntary commitments to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.”
And traditionally they have always recycled and reused everything from old rail ties to steel scraps and parts; batteries to mattress foam.
But website stuff aside, I did a little snooping during my latest choo-choo experience. Here’s what I discovered.
Recycling receptacles are located throughout the train and are easy to find.
According to Amtrak, in toto the company recycles “more than five tons of bottles, cans and paper each month.” High five Amtrak.
But of course, not all the green bugs have been worked out. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention (sigh) our meals were served on disposable dishes – which is actually new in the train biz. In 2005 when we traveled on The Spirit of New Orleans I’m sure the waitress plopped down china plates for every meal.
So, I wasn’t as enamored with this aspect of the trip. However, rumor has it (as well as real news) that some routes have returned to using bona fide washable dishes again. And this was prompted by passenger dissatisfaction with the toss-able stuff – so speak up when you get on board – squeaky wheels really do get noticed!
And try to keep in mind this whole train transportation thing is making a resurgence in the good ol’ USA and there’s lots of wiggle room for new and better ways to do pretty much everything. In fact, according to Wikipedia, 342,403 rode the Southwest Chief (the one we just went on) in 2010, an average of 938 passengers a day – that’s up 7.7% from 2009. And this is just one of more than 30 train routes in the nation.
Basic math will tell you that’s a hell of a lot of cars off the road.
So, don’t be a train virgin. Ditch the car and get your green on; ride the rails and enjoy the trip. In addition, praise the recycling efforts that are in effect – combined voices carry a lot of power (go Green).
And be sure to tip the waitresses who miraculously deliver your food without spilling – amazing!
The conductor’s standing by – All aboard!