Can you fly sustainably and shop responsibly
Many Australians will have just jetted back from a well-deserved summer holiday over the Christmas and New Year period. Plenty of us tend to board a plane without thinking about what it’s doing to the environment, but perhaps we should.
Sydney-Melbourne is the second busiest flight route in the world. CssAndDesign/shutterstock
Australians are frequent flyers. The aviation industry has transported over 59 million passengers on domestic flights and about 39 million on international flights. Sydney to Melbourne has the second-busiest air route in the world, with 54,519 flights per year.
We can fly reliably and cheaply to connect our regional centers with our cities or our big towns with each other. Our cities are also connected to the rest of the world. The importance of air travel also extends to regional and international growth. In many parts of the globe, tourism is a major source of income for economic growth.
All this travel around the world comes with a price.
Read more: Travelling these holidays? Follow tips the Socceroos use to conquer jet lag.
The environmental impact of air travel
Unfortunately, air travel can be one of the most environmentally harmful activities that we engage in. The aviation industry globally is responsible for about 2% of carbon dioxide emissions. However, this is increasing rapidly as more people are flying more frequently.
Using fossil fuels
The climate is particularly affected by aircraft, which burn fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases, as well as leaving contrails in the air at high altitudes. Although the emissions per passenger and kilometer can be similar to driving, most of us fly much further than we would drive, especially on international flights.
The global air travel industry is growing by more than 6% per year. This growth exceeds the reduction in carbon emissions per passenger that has been achieved through efficiency measures.
Building infrastructure and airports
Airports have a high carbon footprint, and not just the flights themselves. The infrastructure surrounding airports – runways, terminals, ground transport, maintenance facilities, shopping centers, and more – consumes significant amounts of energy, land, and water.
The use of resources is still significant. There are efforts to make airports greener through an international carbon certification scheme. Helsinki Airport has claimed it is carbon-neutral. This is something that all airports should strive for.
The planes aren’t the only thing that makes air travel so exciting. Infrastructure is a huge investment. Nicolas Jehly
What can you do to help?
There are many ways to fly that are more environmentally friendly than others. Here are a few ideas for making your travel plans more ecologically friendly.
Choose airlines that pack their flights.
There are many commercial flights that are not full. This means fuel is wasted and carbon emissions are unnecessary.
Some airlines do a better job than others in ensuring that their planes can carry as many people as possible. Choose an airline that does its best to guarantee capacity seating.
It may be less comfortable to have less legroom or no spare seats, but it also means that there are fewer emissions and more passengers benefit from the fuel used.
Offsets and their question
Carbon offsets, where we pay for the carbon dioxide emissions of flying to be sequestered through other means, such as tree planting, are one controversial measure we can take to reduce our impact.
Researchers claim offsets are harmful, as they give the impression that air travel is environmentally justifiable in its present form.
Buy offsets only from -certified organizations to minimize our impact. But don’t be fooled into thinking that balances will make air travel more sustainable.
Making air travel fairer with flight levies
We can support campaigns to make air travel more sustainable.
In the UK, 93% of people fly domestically less than once per year, while 54% have not taken international flights. A relatively small portion of the population is more likely to pass than others, and this has a greater environmental impact.
The campaign A Free Ride proposes a flight tax that increases as an individual takes more flights per year. The movement a href= “http://afreeride.org/”>A Free Ride/a> proposes levying based on the number of flights logged in yearly.
Read more: Perth to London non-stop: great for travelers, but little help for emissions.
Type of aircraft and alternative fuels
Airline companies that offer flights on aircraft with newer models will be generally less harmful than airlines using older models. You can find flights using a site that allows you to see what kind of aircraft you’ll be flying in and estimates CO2 emissions.