Flying is the fastest, most convenient way to travel, be it close or far. You can get everywhere you want in shorter amount of time and (sometimes) get all privileges and luxury at the same time. Moreover, affordable flights with low-cost-carrier make it easier for people to travel. And in many parts of the world, growing middle class people can now afford to fly.
Actually, airplanes are not the world’s biggest polluter. The greenhouse gas they create are somewhere between 1.5 and 2 percent. It’s a lot smaller than what cars or motorcycles emit. However, more people fly nowadays.
For three hour (six hour round trip) flight, you’ll create the same amount of greenhouse gas as 2,5 months of driving your car. And currently, the rate of flights per day is around 60,000. If you fly often, your carbon footprint will be significant. So what can you do?
Times when airplanes burn the most fuel are when they takeoff and climb to cruise altitude. Shorter flights consume 25% percent of the plane’s fuel reserve on takeoff. If you consider yourself as eco-conscious travelers, then you should have some transportation alternatives.
The most obvious thing is of course travel by any public transport rather than flying. Travel longer distances on land using train, bus, or even carpooling services whenever you can. If you’re planning to travel around Europe, take trains throughout instead of taking multiple flights. If you’re going shorter place, then of course it’s wiser to not fly.
For longer or international flights where you have to cross oceans, then you can fly as directly as possible to reduce your carbon footprint. Sometimes, connecting flights are cheaper in terms of money, but the effect on Earth will be expensive because of the multiple takeoffs. And now, more airlines add direct flights from and to smaller destinations, including international service.
Check the airlines’ efficiency
You know how each plane takeoff consume fuel. To know whether you’re making a real effort to decrease your carbon footprint via flying, you should double check the kind of fuel the plane you’re about to fly. There are different types of fuel, it means there are more eco-friendly airlines to use and you’ve got options.
Keep an eye out for airlines that advertise biofuel. It will cut the amount of greenhouse gas each plane emit in every flight significantly. Some say that airlines don’t care about carbon footprint–they only care about profit and money.
However, their profit also depends on fuel usage. Which is why Lufthansa and United begin to experiment with biofuel mixture. Both airlines also order smaller and efficient planes from Airbus and Boeing. Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 are jumbo jets that consume a lot of fuel, as opposed to Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which are smaller and more efficient long-haul planes.
If it makes you feel better, United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization have made a proposal called the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation that specifically targets large planes. The plan is to make international efforts towards reducing planes’ carbon dioxide emission. Through this, individual participation will increase to 70% by the year of 2035.
When you got your plane tickets, you should be able to see the airplane type. Before you buy your tickets, check and find out the rank of certain airlines in a list of fuel efficient airlines through internet or other research. To make it easier for you, this is a guide for a breakdown of the sustainability policy and fuel efficiency programs of major airlines.
Or, you can compare the options using Google’s Matrix software. It’s freely available to compare fares and also emissions data for each flight. This way, you can figure out your carbon footprint yourself. This is also a software that travelers usually use.
Understand carbon offset programs and invest in it
Offset programs are made by airlines company to make eco-conscious travelers at ease. Basically, airlines design these programs for people who want to reduce carbon footprint from flying, and they become more accessible nowadays. They’re going to cost your flight some extra money and direct them to conservation organizations or reforestation groups.
Major airlines have their own offset programs. The pioneer of this trend was Delta Airlines, which did it more than a decade ago in 2007. Their program offers their passengers an opportunity to give money to The Nature Conservancy’s forest conservation efforts. And last year, this airline purchased 30,000 offsets on Earth Day to join their program. Pretty good, don’t you think?
According to Travel and Leisure, Delta Airlines’ offset program is not that expensive. Offset contribution for cross-country flight costs $8 and to negate your carbon footprint for a transatlantic flight, you’re going to pay for $14. Those prices are tax deductible.
Another airline, JetBlue Airways, has made some efforts to reverse climate change through a partner program with carbonfund.org. After nine years of endeavor, the airline has saved 1.7 billion pounds of CO2 emission and preserved about 200,000 hectares of Brazilian rainforest. Passengers help this company to be more eco-friendly and to make positive efforts for mother Earth.
You can also check out other airlines’ offset programs. They will have different costs and types of organization that they’re supporting. It’s yours to decide whether an airline program is worth your money or whether you want to have third-party alternatives instead.
The thing about these programs is that not many people participate in it, it’s completely voluntary. And while offset programs definitely help, not many people know about it. I honestly didn’t know about this either!
Recent studies showed that in general population, there’s a lack of awareness about offset programs. They can only get popular if the news keep covering about climate change or waste issues that most people don’t really care about.
So you might feel good about reducing your own footprint, but you might also feel it doesn’t help much. Offset programs doesn’t put the responsibility on the airline, they put it on you, as individual passengers. But the good news is, there has been a plan to reduce flights carbon emissions. And also remember about UN’s proposal.
So there you go, 3 steps to reduce your carbon footprint from flying, if your situation oblige you to fly so often within one year. Do you have any experience in taking some offset programs or checking airlines’ efficiency? Tell us in the comments below. Make sure to check out this article for related reading!