Traveling is such a great way to broaden your horizons and create the most amazing memories. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and makes me very happy. As much as I love to travel, it doesn’t always agree with my lifestyle of living sustainably. Especially when it comes to air travel because airplanes are not sustainable. Flying leads to carbon emissions being released into the air at a very high rate. Whenever possible I always try to avoid air travel, but sometimes that doesn’t always make sense or is possible. So the question is how do you fly with the smallest environmental impact possible? I’ve compiled a list of some ways you can limit your impact when it comes to air travel.
- Fly less! Whenever possible up for alternate transportation such as bus or train travel which can cut your CO2 emissions up to 90%. I had spent some time in Italy and we took a train from Venice to Florence instead of flying and it was the best decision ever. We got to ride through the entire Tuscan region and had way more legroom than we would’ve in an airplane and riding in a plane. Public transportation is getting so advanced that air travel does not save you as much time as it used to and train/bus/car etc. travel is almost always cheaper.
- Use direct flights as often as possible. Less take-offs and air time means less CO2 emissions being released into the air.
- Always BYOC. Whether that’s an empty water bottle or an empty mason jar, always bring your own container because you never know what secret single use plastic is sneaking around. This way you’re prepared and don’t have to waste your money on overpriced water bottles that not only hurt your wallet but also the planet.
- Bring your own food. Especially on those longer flights that provide a meal for you. Believe it or not airports actually allow you to bring food pass security as long as any liquid items you bring or less than 3 ounces (salad dressing, tahini, olive oil etc.) Those premade meals they give you on the airplane are all wrapped in plastic uses plastic cutlery and even a plastic tray and taste foul. Instead you can bring food that doesn’t require packaging and most often is healthier for you.
- Research the airline you are using prior to booking. Some airlines actually have more eco-friendly practices. For example KLM airlines has some pretty cool ways it reduces its environmental impact when flying. They use biofuels for certain routes, sets goals to reduce their waste by 50% and uses a product called “semi dry wash” that requires 80 times less water to wash an airplane than other airlines.
- Pack light. When your gear weighs less that means the airplane weighs less which means less fuel and less carbon emissions are used for your trip.
- Reach out to the airlines you enjoy using and ask them what they’re doing to reduce their environmental impact. Tell them that you will choose their competitor, even if it’s more expensive, because you place high value on sustainable practices. If enough people do this and we create enough demand airlines want to appeal to their customers so what do you think they’re going to do?
- Fly coach. The omissions associated with flying in business class are about three times as great as finding coach. Why? Because seats are bigger which means fewer people are being flown by the same amount of fuel. Another sustainable swap that not only helps the planet but also helps your wallet.
In the end we have to be honest with ourselves and know that sustainable air travel is not really possible, right now. I think this leaves great opportunity for what’s to come. The innovation possible to find ways to reduce their environmental impact of air travel is an untapped market. It’s already being talked about but who’s going to be the one to do something about it, Elon Musk or maybe you!