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Not so super commuting

  • Story Highlights
  • The world's longest-distance commuter is ditching his 12,300 mile trip to his office
  • Environmental and economic impact of travel is an increasing concern for travelers
  • But few will follow Greening's lead and relocate closer to their work
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By Emma Clarke
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- If there was a Guinness World Record for the world's longest commute it would probably go to Nigel Greening's 12,300-mile journey.

A million miles away: a winemaker has taken the decision to ditch a 38-hour commute between his NZ vineyard and UK home.

His office at his vineyard in Otago, New Zealand and his family home in Devon, UK are within 300 miles of being at opposite points on Earth. The trip between the two is a 38-hour marathon by car, train and plane via London's Paddington station, Heathrow, Singapore and Sydney.

But having racked up over one million miles traveling between the two, Greening has decided enough is enough. In January he and his family will relocate to New Zealand.

He's not doing this because he's tired of the journey. As a First Class passenger, he says, "you come off the other end in much the same condition you get on." Neither is he worried about the rising costs of travel. "At the premium end, fuel surcharges make a much smaller difference," he says.

No, the reason Greening is cutting the commute is because, as an organic winemaker, he can no longer justify the environmental impact of such regular, extensive flights.

"I have traveled a couple of hundred thousand miles a year for the last 20 years. And I have always loved it," he says. "But it is not feasible anymore; it just isn't an acceptable way to behave."

A trend in decline?

A few years ago, trend forecasters were heralding the age of the super commuter. Quicker, more convenient and cheaper air travel, they said, would encourage workers to relocate from crowded, cold and expensive suburbs in cities such as London, to more vibrant locations such as Barcelona and Dubrovnik.

According to 2006 United States Census data, 3.1 million commuters in the U.S. traveled more than 90 minutes by car to work each day or caught a plane to work at least once each week.

But with the costs of travel and concern over the environment increasing concerns for today's traveler, is the era of "extreme commuting" over?

Alan Pisarski, transportation consultant and author of "Commuting in America," doesn't think so. "A lot of people think with rising gas prices people are going to move back to the city center. But that just isn't going to happen," he says.

And while environmental concerns may be the tipping point for the minority, for most this will have little impact on where they live. Would you move closer to your place of work to cut the economic or environmental costs of travel? Sound off below.

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Thousands of people responded to a survey conducted by The Times of London newspaper about super commuting this year, with respondents describing commutes such as weekly trips between Carcassonne, France and Victoria, London, and daily flights from Manchester UK to London City.

For some of the respondents, the decision to travel was the quest for a better standard of living. But for most, it was done out of sheer necessity. They either couldn't afford houses nearer work, they didn't want to relocate their family, or they simply couldn't afford to sell their house.

These results back up Pisarski's research that has found that, with the cost of housing higher than travel, a cheaper home will always be the prime concern, no matter how far it is from a place of work.

Other options

Rising travel costs and tightening belts may not be forcing super commuters from their corners of domestic paradise quite yet, says Pisarski. But they are looking for ways to reduce the costs and make their journeys more efficient.

More employers, he says, are helping staff cut the travel burden by adopting measures such as four-day workweeks, telecommuting and flexible hours.

Long-distance drivers are switching to more fuel efficient vehicles as a route to cut costs, he adds. Gas-saving tactics also include changing driving habits to drive at lower speeds, and planning journeys more carefully to fit more stops in one round trip.

In addition to cutting 12,500 miles from his commute, Greening believes he can do more to cut his business's travel burden. He has formed an alliance with 12 vineyards in New Zealand, which means they can represent each other on the marketing trips they make around the world.

"As a gang we can wildly reduce the amount of travel we have to do, but still get the benefit of being out there traveling," he says.

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