Welcome to part one of our four-part Eco-Conscious Travel series. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can reduce your carbon footprint when flying and other things related to planning ahead.
Driving in a car, flying in a plane, and being physically present at the destination are all impacts on the environment. In this article, we’ll focus on flying; according to Climate Connections, about 3% of global carbon emissions are generated from air travel. We won’t ask you to stop getting on flights — that isn’t realistic and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to give up the convenience of flights — but there are some ways we can help make flying more green.
On Air Travel
- If you can, fly less. If you’re taking a short trip — say an hour flight –it may be better to drive. Climate Connections states “per passenger-hour traveled however, aviation’s climate impact is a factor 6 to 47 higher than the impact from car travel.”For longer flights — say across the country — it makes more sense to fly. There are more factors that go into this number, however, Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Calculator can help you track your carbon footprint when traveling.
- Fly non-stop. The more times a plane takes off, the more fuel it uses, and the more greenhouse gases it emits. Flying non-stop flights can reduce emissions related to the land and take-off cycle.
- Fly with eco-conscious airlines. If you have the means, choosing to fly with eco-conscious airlines can help you reduce your carbon footprint. Alaska Airlines has vowed to remove all plastic stirrers and straws from their business operations. JetBlue has committed to using renewable jet fuel to reduce its carbon emissions. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) named Norwegian Air the most fuel-efficient airline of 2017. Since 2016, United Airlines have been flying with biofuels. For more information, read up on the atmosfair Airline Index to compare and rank carbon efficiency between the top 200 airlines. Here is their updated 2018 report as well.
On Planning Ahead
- Choose a carbon offset destination. Popular travel destinations receive the most human impact, increasing the rate at which the landscape is shaped. In addition to damaging the ecosystem, we risk changing the local people’s way of life. There is a heap of beautiful places that aren’t overcrowded and visiting these less popular destinations can offset the impact and alleviate the pressure of over tourism. If you’re interested in visiting the more popular sites, consider going during the shoulder or off-season.
- You can also look into eco-tourism. Eco-tourism helps to preserve a site’s natural environment and surrounding communities. Lokal Travel is a great website to find sustainable activities and beds to rest your head. Other eco-tourism websites include Responsible Travel and Sustainable Travel International.
- Plan ahead with prepared food and snacks. Reduce waste by preparing food and snacks instead of buying pre-packaged meals at the airport, convenience store, or gas stations. Bringing your own reusable utensils, straw, or cloth napkin with you can help too.
- Plan ahead with research. Refuse single-use travel items such as brochures, maps, and flyers (unless absolutely needed). Instead, download all the information you need onto your phone before your trip.
Lastly, when booking a flight, hotel, or restaurant reservations, be curious and ask questions about each company’s sustainability initiatives. Most places would be happy to answer any questions you have.
Jennifer and Vivian