Air travel produces about 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions and it is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gases. As the number of air passengers is expected to double in 20 years, new challenges emerge.
Many websites and newspapers these days discuss sustainability and air travel, and most of us wonder if green or sustainable travel is possible at all.
However, what exactly does “Green Travel” mean and how can we do it? And how can you tell if a business that claims to offer “Green Travel” experiences is simply greenwashing? The reality is that ecotourism, also known as sustainable travel, is all about making small decisions to reduce your adverse effects on a particular location. Each of these decisions, taken separately, make a small difference in the big picture. But raising our collective awareness of these minor details can have a significant overall effect.
Let’s check some tips to make your travels more sustainable.
Choose a Sustainable Airline
The biggest contributors to tourism’s carbon footprint are air travel and driving, among others. Avoiding air travel is one of the most impactful travel advice, but that isn’t always possible
When choosing an airline, there are steps you can take to reduce your impact. The first one is to offset your flight. Most airlines nowadays offer carbon offset programs, where you can pay an additional cost and in return the airline will invest in sustainability projects around the world (reforestation, tree planting, etc.).
Choose Direct Flights
According to research, takeoffs and landings can consume up to 25% of an airplane’s total fuel supply for a short-haul journey, using the most fuel and producing the most harmful emissions. When you choose a direct flight and avoid layovers, you make sure that the aircraft only takes off once and is therefore much more fuel efficient.
Baggage and Seat Selection
Not carrying too much luggage also helps, as the weight of the aircraft as a whole directly influences how much fuel it consumes. According to airline calculations, the fuel savings would be enough to fly 20 times from Helsinki to Tokyo if every passenger on every flight reduced their luggage weight by one kilogram, over the course of a year. The seat you choose could also reduce emissions. A business class seat is significantly more space-consuming and environmentally damaging than an economy class chair.
Use other Modes of Transportation
All forms of transportation use energy, but some are cleaner and more effective than others. If you want more sustainable travel, it really matters how you get to, from, and around your destination.
Generally speaking, cars and airplanes are the less green forms of transportation. So, try to travel by train or coach when going on vacation to nearby locations to reduce your emissions. Instead of renting a car once you arrive at your location, think about taking the bus, taking the train, or cycling around town. However, if you have to use a car, why not try carpooling?
Save Water & Energy
Beyond transportation, the tourism industry requires energy for heating, lighting, and electricity. So, the intensive water and electricity use by tourists can put a great strain on water supplies and energy infrastructure.
So, try to preserve the water and energy resources of the place you’re visiting. After you leave your hotel or apartment, turn off the lights, TV, and all other electronics. Don’t waste too much water and prefer taking a shower. There are many solutions that are just right in front of us. Even a minor detail can make a difference.
Choose Sustainable Accommodation & Tour Operators
By booking a low-impact hotel, you can also lessen your environmental impact. This could either be a smaller, more modest accommodation or a more upscale establishment that makes use of renewable energy and water/energy-saving technologies. Companies such as luggage storage provider Stasher integrate with many tree-planting projects across the world.
Despite the fact that many businesses now support sustainable travel, many others still do not. Remember that a company is not necessarily “green” or “sustainable” just because it markets itself as such.
The final tip is how you can influence businesses to change their behavior and promote sustainable travel. Finding companies that are reducing their environmental impact and improving the well-being of local communities and wildlife is the best way to have a positive impact on the environment and travel sustainably.
Is Sustainability and Air Travel an Illusion?
According to climate scientists, airlines must decrease their emissions to control climate change. Many airlines have made announcements about initiatives to try and improve their sustainability in the upcoming years.
But it’s not that simple. There are several methods that airlines are going to try to lower their emissions. The most common is switching from fossil-derived jet fuels to those derived from renewable sources. Another way is to make planes lighter and more aerodynamic, so airlines are also turning to new materials and coating technologies.
Flying ranks sixth among the top 10 tasks for an average household in terms of its carbon emissions. But if you frequently fly then it goes to the top of the list.
The truth is that the best way to be genuinely sustainable is to avoid flying. However, there are ways to make sure your flight has less impact such as the airline, seat, route, and CO2 compensation. Additionally, it would not harm to use other means of transportation such as trains or buses. In the UK, Netherlands, and Belgium many trains are run by renewable/sustainable wind energy.