If you’re like most people, when you think about travel-related energy consumption, you think about the big things: The size of the car, the length of the flight, the distance of the drive. Not so much about the cab ride to the airport, or whether you take a light rail train or a fuel guzzling bus to get into the terminal.

But this article about the so-called carbon “toeprint” involved in travel caught our attention. It’s about all those little steps that are required when you embark on a major trip. Things we often consider non-negotiable.  Taxis. Airport shuttles. Buses that connect trains to planes. Even economy parking influences the amount of energy we collectively consume when we travel.

There was once a time when it seemed there was little to do about the travel toeprint, particularly when it came to air travel. All airports seemed to function in essentially the same way. Any frequent traveler today, however, will experience a vast range of ground transportation as they move around the country. In one city, you may have to ride a large bus to get from the airport to the rental car center – you may even find yourself the only passenger on that bus. In another city, you’ll embark on a more fuel-efficient train.

The story that we cite names Dulles International Airport outside of Washington D.C. as one of the nation’s worst airports, when it comes to the “carbon toeprint.” It lists a poor network of public transportation to the airport, and 40,000 parking spaces spread over 30 acres of land and charging as little as $10 per day as major design problems that encourage travelers and airport workers alike to drive alone in their own cars to the airport.

The topic of airports’ carbon toeprints is an important one right now because so many airports are adding systems of light rail transport and adopting other practices to reduce fuel consumption. And they are doing so with mixed success. You may have noticed a fair amount of chaos as travellers line up to embark on a new rail transport system. Perhaps you’ve found yourself longing for the older and quicker system of curbside pickups.

Do you mind lugging your luggage long distances in the interest of reducing all the exhaust that comes from cars and buses circling the airport? Or, have you discovered that some of the new and improved ground transport systems are difficult to navigate? Have your recent travels involved a lighter “toeprint” than in years past and has that made your trip more, or less convenient? What do you think airports should do to reduce their carbon toeprints while also keeping travelers happy?