With the exciting adventure that is traveling to see the world, comes hand in hand with the reality that it’s actually killing it slowly. Air travel is the leading cause of air pollution, contributing 4.9% of human-caused climate change.
Planes inevitably produce carbon emissions. Aircraft use fuel combustion engines that release harmful greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, attributing 2% of all global greenhouse emissions to the aviation industry. The engines burn fossil fuels, which produce emissions such as carbon dioxide, the main cause of climate change. Our society is responding to climate changes in many ways, like carbon trading schemes and offsets.
One approach is creating a trade in carbon where carbon credits can be bought and sold. Nations that emit less than their quota will be able to sell emission credits to nations that exceed their quota. The Australian Government is currently developing a national emissions trading scheme.
But on an individual level, “How do I reduce the environmental impact of my flying?”
The obvious answer is to fly less or take ground transport, but if it’s not possible, the best solution right now is through carbon offsetting each flight you take.
Individuals can ‘buy’ greenhouse gas credits from projects that are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This compensates or ‘offsets’ the greenhouse gasses they are releasing into the atmosphere. Examples include tree planting, increasing energy efficiency in businesses and collecting methane from landfill or livestock. There are many projects you can invest in that generate carbon offsets, including solar, wind, small hydro, geothermal and biomass energy projects. You can pay into carbon offset projects online, or through some airline providers.
The cost of carbon offsetting isn’t huge, with most schemes offering options for as little as $3-5 AUD. You can use a Carbon Footprint Calculator (https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx) to figure out the carbon offset of your trip.
While there is some contention around carbon offsetting being a band aid solution, right now, any small solution helps. It’s not possible for anyone to completely reduce CO2 emissions, but offsetting is one approach we do have that ensures our actions don’t contribute to climate change.
If done well, carbon offsetting can genuinely reduce emissions in the long run by providing funds to develop low carbon technologies and projects.
Can you reduce your emissions without offsetting your flights?
Obviously, the best way to reduce your environmental impact is to simply not fly at all. But sometimes travel is inevitable, and you would also miss out on all the amazing experiences that traveling can bring. There are a few simple ways you can reduce your emissions without offsetting your flights.
1. Fly non-stop
Try to book non-stop flights whenever you can. It’s the take-offs and landings that make up most of an airplane’s carbon emissions.
2. Slow down your travels
If that’s unavailable,
find an alternative off-air mode to get to your destination. If you cut out
just one 5-hour flight, your carbon footprint will be a tonne lighter! See more
of the countryside and experience a slower, local form of transport on the
ground, whether it’s via bus, train or ship. Where possible, walking, trekking
and cycling are also highly recommended! Not only does it have a less negative
impact than a plane, it can add an extra layer of adventure to your trip (and
with only one-bag, it’s so doable).
3. Choose a budget airline
Air travel is the greatest climate impactor per passenger trip. Flying with a budget airline is actually a better option for eco-conscious travel. Due to high yields per plane, most budget airlines have a reasonable per passenger CO2 emission rate. This isn’t great, but it’s still better than flying in a half full plane.
4. Fly economy
This isn’t an issue for us budget travelers! Traveling in first class or business class is far worse than economy due to the yield. Consider flying economy on your next trip.
5. One-bag it Adopting the one-bagging lifestyle and packing lightly makes a big difference because every kilo counts when flying. The more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces.