Travel by Air

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Unless your idea of a dream vacation is a stay-cation, eating endless amounts of potato chips on your couch as you binge on Netflix, chances are you’re going to require some form of transportation to get you to your destination. And it wouldn’t be surprising if that mode of transportation is by air. Travel by air is of course what we tend to think about when we talk about going on vacation. So even on the most sustainable of trips, it’s likely that we may not be able to avoid travelling by air. If so, what can we do to mitigate our environmental impacts?

Aviation accounts for 600-700 million tones of carbon dioxide (CO2) being released into our atmosphere annually. That is a staggering amount. So if avoiding travelling by air is possible, we’d highly encourage that. However, as mentioned above, that may not always be realistic. Furthermore, abstaining from air travel may also prevent you from supporting sustainable tourism, such as going to a country in need of tourism, to help fight poverty, protect wildlife, fund education or create local jobs.

Rhiannon Batten, author of “Higher Ground: How to Travel Responsibly Without Roughing It” recommends eliminating short haul flights from your itinerary. This is because most of the fuel a plane burns is during take-off and getting to cruising speed, as well as landing. This causes a lot of wasted fuel if you’re only on a flight for a couple of hours when other, more sustainable options may have been available. For example, you do not need to take a short-haul flight from Amsterdam to Germany or from Spain to Portugal, when trains and buses are readily available and emit much lower amounts of CO2. Using direct flights, as opposed to multiple stops, also mitigates the amount of CO2 associated with your air travel.

Carbon offsetting schemes may also be an option. This is where you pay a certain dollar amount for the amount of CO2 your flight(s) emits, which then goes towards funding renewable energy projects. Although this sounds admirable, it’s not perfect. The reason being, offsetting your flight’s CO2 emissions can sometimes be interpreted as a license to pollute. Furthermore, it’s sometimes difficult to know what projects your money goes to. But if you do decide that carbon offsetting is an option for you, then look for reputable offsetting companies, such as The Carbon Neutral Co. or Climate Care. Make sure that any offsetting companies you buy your offsets from are certified by The Gold Standard, which ensures your dollars actually go towards green projects.