You recycle, drive a fuel efficient car and carry a reusable water bottle. You’re concerned about climate change. But has that changed the way you fly?
The aviation industry was responsible for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions in 2019. And the International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that U.S. travelers are responsible for a quarter of those emissions.
Other sources of pollution are far bigger. But as travelers, we should especially treasure the planet. Here are five ways to shrink your flying-related footprint.
1. Don’t Fly
We hate to say it, you hate to hear it. But the most effective way to cut your emissions from flying is not to do it—or, at least, to cut back substantially.
That doesn’t mean you have to stay home. Consider a staycation, local road trip, or rail adventure. Driving isn’t always less polluting than flying, but the more people you have in your car, the lower the per-person pollution. Drive a fuel-efficient car—or better yet, a hybrid or electric version. (Here’s a chart from the U.S. Department of Energy comparing average emissions.)
2. Go Nonstop
According to one NASA report, planes generate a quarter of their emissions during takeoff and landing. So if you’re taking off and landing twice because of a connecting flight, your trip will generally be more polluting. A nonstop trip might cost more in dollars, but less in environmental impact.
3. Travel Less, but For Longer
The math on this one is easy. Assuming the distances are similar, you’ll generate far less emissions by traveling to a destination once for three weeks than three times for a week apiece. Take the longer trip, if you can swing it.
4. Pack Lighter
The heavier your baggage, the more fuel required to get it to your destination—and the more emissions. Packing less can be a double win, saving money on fees as well.
5. Choose the Right Flight (and Airline)
Think a flight is a flight is a flight? Not quite. Newer planes are more efficient. U.S. airlines have committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2025. As of 2020, JetBlue buys carbon offsets for all of its domestic flights. You can also find less-polluting flights when you’re planning a trip by checking travel site Skyscanner, which has a Greener Choice label on flights with below-average carbon dioxide emissions.