As eco-enthusiastic travellers, there’s a humorous irony to boasting about using metal water bottles and recycling every Sunday while in the queue to board our 4th flight of the year.
The impact we have on the climate seems to go unnoticed when it comes to transportation because it is such a necessity in our daily lives.
Although a single flight from London to Athens can cost less than £100, it will generate 20% of the greenhouse gases that your car will in an entire year! That’s 1000 pounds of CO2 in the atmosphere per passenger!
The harsh reality is that it’s hard to avoid the environmental cost we pay each time we board a flight. Although in the UK, aircraft emissions make up only 1% of overall transport-related emissions, if you’re flying, you’re inevitably contributing to the greater problem of pollution.
However, things don’t have to be so grim. It is possible to travel a little bit greener.
The same mantra we use to for recycling, ‘Reduce, reuse and recycle’, applies to air travel: ‘Don’t fly, fly efficiently and fly offset.’ Through airline efficiency calculators and carbon offsetting schemes we can become the eco-friendly travellers we dream of being, without sacrificing our love for travel.
The first step to flying greener is not flying at all. If given the opportunity avoid the airport.
Taking the train or using other eco-friendly travel alternatives can go a long way for the environment and your wallet. By avoiding flying we don't suggest you take a cross-country trip in your car or spend two days on a bus because for long trips it is better to fly, it's not the air travel that is an issue, the take-off and landings are.
According to a 2010 report by NASA, about 25% of airplane emission come from take-off and landing. If your flight is longer than 2.5 hours, it is much more efficient to fly than to drive.
When you do fly, apply rule number two: fly efficiently.
Efficient air travel can be tricky but websites like atmosfair.de offer airline efficiency indexes to guide you towards the best flight for you. Additionally, apparantly, flying coach reduces your carbon footprint by three times! By reducing the space you take up on your flight, you are reducing the amount of fuel needed to supply the airplane. So I guess we can save the world by not travelling first class. :) Easy!
If you cannot avoid flying, this is when offsetting schemes should become your new air mile rewards.
Carbon offsetting is a method of compensation for your emission by funding CO2-saving schemes. In a way, this is like collecting karma points. You did a bad thing, so you pay to do a good thing in return.
The concept was offered by agents like Expedia wherein at check-out you could click to pay £10 more in exchange for a clean conscience but now the option has disappeared so you have to offset your carbon emmisions seperatly.
By 2021 under the new UN agreement, international flights will be required to pay offset fees for extra emissions however, this does not mean we can relax. Until 2021, airlines have no legal obligation to do anything about the CO2 emission they produce. This is why taking matters into your own hands and supporting the sustainable causes you believe in matters.
The price of a clean conscience and a cleaner environment on a trip from London to Helsinki will only cost you an extra £20. The same you would have spent at the duty-free.
Websites like atmosfair.de offer carbon offsetting schemes you can support.
The key here is to always ensure the scheme you are supporting conforms to the Verified Carbon Standard or Clean Development Mechanism. Look to see how they quantify savings. Make sure your the money your paying to offset is making up for the miles you’re flying.
Air travel has a greater impact than some of us realise, greater than greenhouse gases. Even if you follow through with the advice, think twice about your next flight. If you feel bad, offset.
To find out more about your carbon footprint and offsetting click here!