The Ultimate Guide to Climate Conscious Air Travels
Traveling by plane is hard to defend from an environmental perspective, but as a boat, train, car or bicycle will only get one so far, taking the air-route is sometimes the only option. Here’s how to do it in a more climate conscious way.
Today, the air traffic stands for about 2-3 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and, as you know, this is directly linked to global warming. Add to that the effect of higher-level water vapor, soot and nitrogen oxides emissions, and the negative environmental impact looks twice as bad.
Reducing flight emissions is highly prioritized on a global level, and according to the International Aviation Transport Association (IATA), the goal is to reduce net aviation CO2 emissions with 50% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels. As the number of people traveling by airplane is expected to more than double until then, we’re depending on the development of modern airplanes, better jet engines and sustainable biofuels to make that goal seem realistic.
A few airlines have been using so called drop-in biofuels made from blends of regular petroleum-based jet fuel and processed camelina, algae, sugar, nicotine-free tobacco plants or used cooking oil for passenger flights since 2011. Biofuels produce up to 80% less CO2 emissions over its lifecycle compared to conventional jet fuel, which makes it a much more sustainable option.
Today, both Oslo and Los Angeles airports supply airlines with alternative fuels for commercial air traffic, but as the price for biofuel is about two to three times higher than for conventional jet fuel, there’s still a limited demand. Yet, it’s expected that 100,000 flights will be operated with sustainable aviation fuel in 2018, but if it’s to reach a commercial scale, and with that hit the 2050 goal, we understand that governmental support will be essential.
So, it’s clear that radical change is needed for air traffic to become a sustainable mean of transportation. Until then: here are some useful tips for how to be a more eco-friendly and climate conscious traveler.
Reduce your number of flights per year, and instead—extend the length of each trip. Emma, for example, has decided to only fly once a year from now on. Read all about it here!
Select a modern aircraft like Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A350. These are made from carbon-fiber composite materials, with high prestanda engines that generate much less noice. They’re also much more fuel-efficient than older models, which makes them the greenest option by far.
Book non-stop flights as often as you can. This is better for the environment as takeoff and landing require more fuel than cruising, and burning fuel releases those harmful CO2 emissions.
Choose a fuel-efficient aircraft. In a report from 2014, ICCT ranked Norwegian as the most fuel-efficient airline for transatlantic flights, while Lufthansa, SAS and British Airways where the bottom three. The result is based on seating configuration and type of plane: less business and first class seats—and a newer fleet—equals better fuel-efficiency.
By packing lighter you will reduce the fuel consumption and therefore also the environmental impact of your flight. Green-thinking airlines are currently throwing out unnecessary weight to lighten the aircraft itself too. You know you don’t need all those shoes anyway!
Buy Carbon Offsets
Climate compensate your personal CO2 emissions by purchasing carbon offsets. Airlines and travel organizers offer this online service in collaboration with different projects that work to reduce CO2 emissions. By calculating the CO2 emissions caused by your flight, and the cost for compensating these, you can in an easy way put some extra money towards making your trip climate neutral. If looking for carbon offsets outside the major airlines, make sure they are certified by e.g. the Gold Standard to avoid greenwashing.
Use Google’s ITA software Matrix to compare flight emissions—this will help you pick the most eco-friendly ride.
Shut the Shed
Did you know that keeping the window sheds shut actually has a purpose? When the sun is shining bright outside, the sheds help keeping the plane nice and cool, which saves energy and therefor reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Biofuel it Up
Look for airlines that use sustainable biofuel. All United Airline flights going out of Los Angeles are operated with biofuel, for example. Check out this list of airlines committed to accelerating the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation biofuel to find the better options.
1. Take the bus or train to the airport instead of going by car.
2. Use an e-ticket instead of printing your boarding pass (do you really have to print anything, these days?).
3. Charge your phone before boarding to save energy.
4. BYOB. As always: bring your own bottle or coffee mug and refill it at the airport.
5. If feeling ambitious, bring your own food and snacks in reusable containers.
That’s it, good look!
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