Want to know how you can easily make flying more sustainable? This article has a plethora of simple steps to help you make plane travel more environmentally friendly and also save some money in the process!
By clicking on this article it’s already your first step towards greener travel, and, it’s a step everyone should be taking. As natural born wanderers we completely understand the desire to explore the world, and for a lot of people the most convenient way is to fly. We get that. Our natural environment is a beautifully delicate thing that needs protecting, so we all need to make the process of flying as sustainable as possible.
Whether you’re travelling for business, to see family, to discover foreign lands or just to get some duty free products, this article will is here to help you do it in greenest way possible.
“Is flying really that bad?”
In short, YES, but as you’re here you’re probably aware of some of the environmental impacts of flying (if you’re not then you can find out more on the link). The amount of annual flyers is set to double in the next 20 years and in 2019 over 4 billion people are expected to board flights.
These flights produce an absolutely obscene amount of carbon emissions which is a big no-no for our natural world, directly contributing to global warming and climate change.
To give you an idea of how much: one return flight from London to Sydney produces over 3 tonnes of carbon emissions per person.
But how much is 3 tonnes of CO2?
It’s widely agreed per person we each need to be producing less than 3 tonnes of carbon A YEAR to stop global warming of over 2°c and limit irreversible damage to the environment. So, 3 tonnes in a single flight is horrific to say the least…
It’s all pretty shocking but until someone manages to build an affordable teleportation device it’s unlikely the world will give up flying overnight. So what can you do? If you’re going to fly then you can make sure you do it in the best, most sustainable way possible, and it’s surprisingly easy…
Tips to Make Flying More Sustainable
***Before we start***
Although many websites and airlines may avoid the brutal truth, that’s something we don’t do at Veggie Vagabonds. The blunt answer is flying is not sustainable and until technology advances it’s going to stay that way.
For that reason the absolute best thing you can do to make flying more sustainable is to cut down. That’s a whole other article which we’re in the process of writing. Make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter to find out when it comes out!
The tips in this article will help you make flying more sustainable, and they really will help. You don’t have to adopt all of them, but they’re surprisingly easy and if every flyer used them it would make a world of difference.
Get eco-savvy and choose the best airline
There isn’t a single greenest airline but some are making positive steps to make their services more sustainable. How do companies do this? Unfortunately we’re a long way off solar powered planes but you can find out lots of useful information on airlines’ websites.
Newer planes are more fuel efficient and the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner uses 40% less fuel than other similar sized planes. Airlines are starting to develop sustainable practices, like incorporating biofuels and cooling systems to make planes more energy efficient.
Other simple things you can look out for are on-board ethical practices; the use of biodegradable products, fairtrade, recycling etc. It makes a difference on the ground and it makes a difference in the air.
To find this information you can look on airlines’ websites to find out their sustainable initiatives. If this isn’t easy to find immediately try doing an internet search with “‘airline’+environment”.
Some airlines which are leading the way in green air travel are KLM, China Airlines and Latam, who have all received notable awards for their progress.
Be a cheapskate
Told you these tips would save you some money!
Buying an economy ticket from a budget airline dramatically reduces the carbon emissions per person. Think of 2 planes flying the same route, one plane has 100 economy seats with 100 people, the other has 60 business class seats for 60 people. Unfortunately the more people crammed on-board the flight the better. Go budget, then you can feel good about having no leg room.
If you’re going to fly, longer flights are actually better, kinda…
Obviously the longer the flight the more carbon emissions produced, however per mile on average there are less emissions for longer journeys. Most of the energy and fuel used from flying are when planes take off and land, whilst much less is used cruising. This makes short-haul flying much less sustainable compared to other forms of transport like trains/buses/cars.
For short distances and internal flights try and use other methods of transport and save flying for longer trips.
Be a minimalist and pack light
The lighter the baggage on the plane the less fuel needed to power the engines. Not only does this mean you can embrace your inner minimalist you’ll also save some money if you just take a carry-on.
Stand out from the crowd and fly when others don’t want to
Ever been on a flight when they do another loop around the airport mid-air because the runways are busy? Yep, that’s all wasted fuel. The same happens in the air without flyers realising. With busy airways planes often make slight diversions from route which uses a lot of extra fuel.
You can help stop this by trying to fly during the quietest times of year. Generally this means outside of holidays and in winter or low season. The quietest days to travel are Tuesday and Wednesday in the afternoon, followed by Thursday and Saturday.
Not only is this better for the environment, you’ll also find cheaper flights during these times and cut your travel costs.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Although you may be rushing for a flight and about to relax and unwind on holiday, all of the normal sustainability rules apply. You can make flying more sustainable by limiting your waste on the flight. Bring your own headphones and water bottle to save on the plastic. You can also save money on the in-flight meal by bringing a pack-up and stop unnecessary waste.
Lay off the layovers
Because of the increase in fuel usage taking off and landing it also means direct flights are far more sustainable than routes with layovers. You’ll also get to your final destination quicker!
Let the sun heat things up, but not too much!
Interestingly heat and rays from the sun counteract some of the greenhouse gases released in jet fuel exhausts. This means can make your flights more sustainable by opting to fly during the day rather than at night.
On the other side of this, if you do fly during the day keeping your blinds down can also help. It might look really nice outside but the temperature of the plane dramatically increases when blinds are open and sunlight comes in. The cooling system on the plane is then switched on which uses a lot of unnecessary energy use.
As a last resort off-set your carbon emissions
Although carbon-offsetting is a bit of an iffy subject, if you are going to fly then this is can be used as a last resort. Carbon-offsetting companies use carbon calculators to measure how much CO2 will be produced from your flight. You can then make a payment to these companies who reinvest in sustainable projects, like tree-replanting, hydroelectricity or environmental outreach etc.
Although this may look good on the tin we’re dubious of how much these projects can counteract the impacts of flying, whether the companies are reliable and whether it could encourage people to continue excessive levels of flying rather than cutting down.
But, as a last resort it could be a good idea.
Have you used carbon offsetting companies before? Do you think it’s a good idea or have a company you would recommend?
How YOU Can Easily Make Flying More Sustainable
Told you they were easy steps right? And, many of them will save you some money too, so it’s a win-win situation. Flying may be a convenient answer to travelling around the world but we can all cut down. For the flights you do take try and make them as sustainable as possible.
No matter what type of traveller you are, we all need the environment so we need to work to protect it. At the end of the day if our natural world is ruined what will there be left to travel for? Even city breaks require clean air!
If you have any other tips to make flying more sustainable then please tell us in the comments box below so everyone can know too!
Why we decided to stop flying and why you should think about it too
Our England to India cycle trip – no emissions but big ambitions!
A whole bunch of sustainable travel tips
Great tips and I think they’re a step in the right direction. Unfortunately I think they’re not “the answer” and I’m sure you’ll agree. Let’s all keep searching for the long term solution. I have a feeling it’s walking or cycling?
Very true. In honesty, this article was actually written in response to an article I wrote suggesting people stopped flying (https://veggievagabonds.com/2019/01/15/why-we-decided-to-stop-flying/). There was an overwhelming response from people saying they would appreciate ways to make flying more sustainable rather than suggesting people stop. I completely agree with you, cycling is the way forward! Unfortunately it may not be a likely choice for the majority of people…