Reducing your environmental impact when flying

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Author credit  Matt Foster
Photo by Gary Lopater on Unsplash

While it is far from universal, many of today’s travellers are more enlightened and informed about the environmental impact of air travel. This awareness is now gaining momentum and putting pressure on airports and airlines to make environmentally friendly changes. Individual behaviour is changing too and people can choose greener alternatives within their travel plans.
Although you can’t just focus all the blame on travel, the more we do, the faster we will have a whole way of living which promotes sustainability. We can learn to make choices that will change our consumption of resources.
There are some surprisingly easy ways in which you can make changes that will reduce your environmental impact when flying.

Travel to and from the airport by train

Travelling to and from the airport by train is a great way of cutting down on carbon emissions and the UK's airports are now actively encouraging staff and passengers to use public transport links instead of driving. Many travellers are also choosing to use car share clubs for airport transfers. All companies, including airports and airlines, have begun to understand that customers will have a more positive image of them if they support environmental issues.

The statistics below show that this is having an effect, with airport parking now only used by a small number of flyers. A recent study collected Google search data and data from the UK airport parking sites and discovered only 0.83% of flyers at Heathrow look for parking - 647,000 out of 78 million. Bristol airport was the most popular proportionately, with 10% (582,691) of 5,826,916 flyers a year.

Travel off-season, pack light, choose economy

There are choices you can make that benefit both you and reduce your environmental impact.
If you travel out of season, you will not only avoid the crowds, but you will aid destinations to reduce environmental impact and provide locals with year round opportunity to work.
By packing lightly, your luggage will be easier to carry and you will contribute to the plane using less fuel.
It also makes sense to choose an economy seat as you will save money and you will be responsible for fewer emissions. This is because if a plane carries more passengers the fuel cost will be divided between more people.
Another choice you may be able to make is the model of the plane you choose to fly on. Newer planes often have better fuel economy, using two engines instead of four and they also offer higher levels of comfort when seated with the latest features onboard.

Carbon offset your air travel

You can rebalance the environmental scales by working out the carbon emissions created by your flight and then make a financial donation to a carbon reduction programme like Carbonneutral, Co2balance or Climatecare. However, these companies do need to make a profit, so you could volunteer for a local woodland conservation project or plant trees if you want to see where the money goes.

Choose daytime flights and take direct flights

Research has shown that the white lines of exhaust that run behind planes - the jet entrails - add to the warming of the atmosphere because they contain the heat which radiates up from the earth.
You can also choose to take direct flights to your destination rather than those which stop on the way. This helps reduce your environmental impact because cruising at high altitude uses less fuel.

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