7 Ways to Reduce the Impact of Air Travel


Dismissing air travel entirely is unrealistic in this day and age, but we can try to reduce the impact of air travel. People fly for many different reasons, and doing it in a less impacting, more eco-friendly manner is always a good idea.

You try to keep your travel as eco-friendly as possible, but sometimes, you have no choice but to fly up.

The International Council on Clean Transportation says:

Taking one roundtrip flight abroad generates one metric ton of carbon, which is roughly equivalent to driving a Prius 20 miles (35 km) to work every day for a year!

We should all try to fly less and stay for longer when we go, but there are things everyone can do to lessen the impact and make your trip as green as possible by following these suggestions:

“I think we’re on the brink of a new era of flying responsibly,” says Sophia Leonora Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s Head of Sustainability. “The vast majority of carriers [are] completely focused on the upcoming United Nations ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) agreement.” This mandates that all airlines cap CO2 and commit to carbon neutral growth after 2020, among other significant measures.

A progress being made — from buying newer more fuel-efficient airplains to NextGen technology — but our collective high-altitude emissions are still staggering. There are about 100,000 commercial flights per day, and the number of air travel will only continue to grow, says Scott Mayerowitz, airlines reporter at The Associated Press. “Last year, U.S. airlines burned through 16.2 billion gallons of fuel [or 340 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions],” says Mayerowitz.

Take a nonstop flight

As much as 50 percent of a flight’s emissions come from takeoff and landing. We could mention also the fuel burned while waiting for a runway. non-stop flights are exponentially better for the environment.

Keep in mind that taking off and landing use up more fuel than cruising at high altitude. It’s better for the environment to seek a different airline when you’re searching online to make a flight reservation than many low-cost airlines that fly via a third location rather than non-stop.

It is always better for the environment to take a non-stop flight.

Book an air travel that uses newer model planes.

Newer planes usually have better fuel economy than older ones.
If you have a choice between an older aircraft and a newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft, book the modern aircraft. Green, options include Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350. Many leading airlines use new versions of 737s and A320s/A321s for shorter flights. A 2016 study on airlines’ fuel efficiency revealed a huge discrepancy between carriers when it comes to how much fuel they burn. This is caused by two main differences – the number of premium seats and the type of aircraft. In the U.S. Alaska Airlines is the most fuel efficient, followed by Frontier and Spirit. In Europe, Norwegian Airlines is 51 percent more efficient than British Airways, the worst ranking. Porter Airlines, which operates in Canada and the U.S., uses turboprop planes that fly much lower than jets and use 64 percent of the fuel that jets do.

Choose daytime flights

Studies show that jet can contribute to warming the atmosphere because as they disperse they can trap heat radiating up from the earth. Especially at night because during the day, the contrails partially offset the heat trap effect by radiating light from the sun away from the earth. It’s believed that flying during the daytime is more eco-friendly. Nighttime flights have a greater warming impact because, as the David Suzuki Foundation explains, the contrails trap heat that would otherwise escape the Earth.

Reduce the Impact of Air Travel

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Lower the window shades

According to Delta rep Ashton Morrow. “Why does the flight attendant ask you to lower your shades and open the vents when it’s warm outside?” Because it helps keep the aircraft cool. When all window shades are closed, the aircraft can be 10 degrees cooler. Reducing the cooling load saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”

Purchase carbon offsets for your air travel

Carbon offset programs might be more of a quick fix than a long-term solution, and they go toward reducing the same amount of environmental costs that your trip expends.
In 2007, Delta first started the use of an airline carbon offset program. Up to today this program benefits The Nature Conservancy’s forest projects in Chile, Virginia, and Belize. For example, a roundtrip flight from New York to London will emit one ton of CO2 per passenger, while one tree conserved through the program will capture up to 7.5 tons of CO2 over its lifetime.

“If I have a choice of airlines, and I know one has an effective carbon-neutral program but the other doesn’t, I can chose, as a consumer, to put my money where it does the most good,” – says Skift’s aviation editor, Marisa Garcia.

JetBlue’s program supports The Envira Amazonia Project, which preserves 500,000 acres of endangered tropical rainforest in Brazil and also providing the community with educational programs, and health care. When you spend about $13 to offset your flight from New York to Paris, 100 percent of the tax-deductible donation goes to these and other projects, including wildlife conservation or renewable energy.

You can do this voluntarily to some airline tickets at the time of purchase of your air travel ticket. Learn more about how carbon offsets are used.

Use economy class.

The more passengers that an aircraft carries, the less fuel is burned per passenger. When you choose an economy seat, you’re responsible for fewer emissions than if you choose a seat in a roomier class of travel.

Atmospheric scientist Peter Kalmus calculates that sitting in first class emits 1.5 kg C02-equivalents per passenger mile, compared to 0.5 kg CO2e in the economy. A 2009 study by World Bank calculated that first class has a higher carbon footprint than their economy class.

Pack light.

Every pound of weight that a plane carries increases the amount of fuel that it burns, the havier the load the more carbon emissions will be released. Consider reducing your luggage weight which will reduce your environmental impact and it makes your traveling far easier, faster, and more pleasant.

“Delta is packing lighter in an effort to cut fuel consumption and lessen environmental impact by reducing the amount of ice boarded on overnight international flights, replacing heavy pilot manuals (50 pounds) with Microsoft Surface tablets and flight attendant manuals with Nokia Lumia 1520 phablets, as well as installing lighter carbon brakes in place of the high-capacity steel brakes where possible,” says Delta’s Morrow. “If customers pack lighter—making simple changes like leaving that extra pair of shoes at home (two pounds)—the annual environmental impact from reduced fuel consumption is the equivalent to removing 10,500 cars from the road for [an entire] year.”

As you are preparing to take off for your next vacation, consider reducing your carbon impact by using some of these simple tips. You can check our other posts about becoming a sustainable traveler.

Photo credit: Miroslava from Pexels

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