Aside from figuring out what to pack, finding your passport somewhere at the bottom of a drawer and making sure you have enough movies to watch, as an eco conscious traveller you will probably worry about how much flying increases the size of your carbon footprint. Here are 4 ways you can compensate the environment for flying.
1. Choose the right airline
Whenever possible, choose an airline that is environmentally friendly. There is such a thing, well at least friendlier that is.
Companies like Ryanair, Cathay Pacific and Easyjet cram a lot of seats in and are usually all booked up. Their luggage policy is also strict. This might not sound very comfortable but it means there is no wasted space which makes these airlines much more effective in saving energy. Ryanair has also bought newer planes which means that their air crafts are more eco friendly. So this is great news for your wallet and the environment!
For a long haul non stop flight Continental Airlines seems to be a good choice. Globally they are better than other airlines at managing fuel and filling up seats, although they do not have a sustainable development policy. United Airlines however are upping their green game as they have started using biofuel in 2015. With this fuel they are planning to cut their CO2 emissions by 50 percent.
Although Alaska Airlines only comes in tenth place on the Brighter Report’s list of the top ten green airlines, they have a goal of reducing their CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020, to increase their biofuel use, and to better waste management. They are clearly putting in an effort to become more green so they get a thumbs up.
2. Support a carbon offset program
While it is a much better idea to reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible in the first place, a carbon offset program can help you to neutralise the rest.
Carbon offset programs allow people and businesses to neutralise their carbon footprint. You can calculate the emissions of the flight on a scheme’s website, and pay the resulting amount of money that it will take for the scheme to neutralise your carbon footprint elsewhere in the world. Usually schemes operate in developing countries, and work towards reducing future emissions by investing in clean energy projects, education or planting trees. But not all of them are legitimate, and it takes some time and effort to figure out which program is worth putting your money into.
If you are not sure about a carbon offset program, there are other options available such as supporting a clean energy charity. SolarAid for example promotes the use of solar energy by installing solar panels in poor countries to help combat global poverty and fight climate change.
3. Travel slow and long
Slow and steady really does win the race. Travelling slow and for a longer period of time is good for your wallet, there is freedom to have an open plan and this tactic also saves a lot of flying. In one trip to Southeast Asia for example you can fly to Kuala Lumpur, and from there Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Cambodja and Vietnam are all accessible by bus or another means of land transportation. Do check the requirements of the country you are flying to, some need to see a return ticket or proof that you are leaving the country. Some countries are much more strict than others. A way to get around this for example is to buy a fully refundable ticket.
4. Plant a tree
Planting a tree is fun, rewarding and it is an incredibly effective way to store carbon for long periods of time. Some trees store more carbon than others, so here is a short list of the top 3.
- The yellow poplar or tulip tree. This tree can withstand rough conditions and is the top carbon storer in New York City.
- The silver maple tree can trap nearly 25,000 pounds of CO2 in a 55 year period!
- The oak can adapt to many climates and provides food and shelter to wildlife.
Whichever tree you end up choosing to plant, choose a tree that:
- is fast growing
- is long lived
- has large leaves
- is native
- is low maintenance
If for any reason you can not or do not want to plant a tree yourself, there are plenty of other options. If you don’t have the space or permission to plant a tree you can join a volunteer team that plants them, or you can donate to an organisation. Tree Aid and Plant a Billion are just a few examples.
And if you need some new threads a company called Tentree makes awesome clothes and for every garment you buy they plant ten trees! They have even created a tree registry program so you can see exactly where your trees are planted. How amazing is that?
There is always room to make a difference. The sky is the limit.