We’re sure you’ve all seen the warnings about arriving to the airport extra early to avoid long security queues and baggage chaos, signaling that travel is officially back. And following more than two-years of COVID-19 induced travel restrictions, everyone is itching to jet off to a far-flung locale this summer. But those of us who are concerned about the environment may have some reservations about traveling this season amid the serious climate change crisis.
In fact, tourism is responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions and as more and more people travel each year, the carbon footprint is only growing— According to statistics, carbon emissions from the climate-altering airline industry alone grew by 75 percent from 1990 to 2012 and they are expected to continue to grow rapidly until 2050. If actions aren’t taken to reduce our carbon footprint, soon, we won’t even have lush tropical islands or snowy mountains to get away to as the planet warms, shrinking beaches and leaving alpine resorts snowless and dry.
However, that’s not to say that we should all hang up our passports and restrict ourselves to staycations and weekend getaways within the confines of our borders for the rest of our lives. There are several steps we can take to offset our carbon footprint and ensure that we travel more sustainably.
Research airlines carefully
Choose airlines that have an efficient fleet and fly their planes with few empty seats— websites such as Atmosfair.de has a ranking of emissions by airline. Plenty of airlines, including Saudia, have also pledged to become more sustainable by switching to more sustainable fuels, ordering electric jets, and offering carbon offsets.
Fly direct, when you can
The total carbon impact of one single flight is so high that avoiding just one trip can be equivalent to going car-free for a year. If possible, opt for a direct flight rather than hopping on multiple airplanes to get to your final destination.
Pack light and smart
Did you know that the heavier your luggage, the more fuel is required to get you to your destination? There’s no reason why you need to pack five pairs of shoes for a week-long vacation. Reduce your contribution to the plane’s freight load by being conscious of how you pack.
Always offset your flights
Carbon offsets are voluntary ways where people pay to “offset” or make up for the emissions their flights produce. Some airlines allow you to pay an extra fee on top of the flight cost when you book your flight, which goes towards a carbon offset scheme. Or, you can choose to offset your own flights directly by donating to a project or planting trees. There are several online calculators where you can work out the amount of carbon you used and choose a cause to support.
Commit to stop flying altogether
Okay, maybe you don’t need to forego flying completely to be a more eco-minded traveler, but consider hopping on an airplane only when necessary. There’s no reason why you should take a two-hour-long flight for a 30-minute work conference when you can just video call yourself in.