Sustainable in the sky – how to fly with minimal impact
Air travel is, by its very nature, not a sustainable activity. But as environmental impact becomes an increasing concern for governments, consumers and businesses, airlines are beginning to take action.
From switching to biofuels to building more fuel-efficient, aerodynamic aeroplanes, airlines are adapting their operations, and the result is – in many cases – seriously impressive (and seriously exciting, for those of us who struggle to reconcile our desire to explore planet earth with our concern for its survival).
As we enter 2023 with fewer limits on our air travel than we’ve seen over the past few COVID-ridden years, we’ve put together a few tips on how to fly with minimal impact…
Limit your air travel
Unfortunately, the most sustainable way to fly is… not at all. That’s a fact that goes without saying, but sometimes it’s important to be reminded – so that when the option arises to avoid boarding a plane, you consider taking it. While air travel is only understood to account for around 2.4% of total CO2 emissions, the aviation industry is thought to be responsible for around 5% of global temperature rises/ global warming. As outlined in our round-up of travel wellness trends for 2023, air-free flying is likely to be on the rise. But sometimes flying is the only way to get from A to B, so the following tips should help you keep a cap on your flight’s footprint.
Choose the right airline
While most airlines now have sustainability initiatives integrated into their operations, some are doing better than others. In 2022, Etihad was awarded Environmental Airline of the Year in the Airline Excellence Awards, and its approach to sustainability is undeniably impressive. Etihad has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, with a focus on developing efficient sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), building a fleet of light, fuel-efficient aircraft and planting mangroves to counteract CO2 production. You can read more about Etihad’s sustainable initiatives – which include reducing single use plastic and turning waste into fuel – via their sustainability report here.
Other airlines leading the charge when it comes to sustainability include those under the One World Alliance, which includes American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Canadian Airlines. Along with Etihad, One World members have also committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and have implemented a number of creative sustainability initiatives which range from serving seasonal menus to supporting wildlife preservation charities. Before booking your flight, it’s worth looking into the airline’s approach to sustainability – the more support we show to the airlines playing their part, the more we’ll move the needle in the right direction.
Be waste-aware in the air
While entirely avoiding single-use plastic while you’re flying – particularly on a long-haul flight – would be almost impossible, it’s worth being conscious of the waste you’re responsible for on your flight. Simple changes such as bringing your own refillable bottle and cup can help move the needle, and signal to airlines that the demand for single-use plastic is on the decline.
Thankfully, some airlines are already taking heed – with many airlines (including many of the One World members) using recyclable packaging where possible, and partnering with local organisations to redistribute food waste.
According to Etihad, travelling with just 5kg less baggage can reduce your carbon footprint by 5%. Regardless of the figures, the maths is simple: carry less, and the plane that’s carrying you will require less fuel to take you to wherever you need to be.
Opt for carbon offset
According to data from Webjet, carbon offsetting is on the rise, with the platform revealing that carbon offset bookings have increased by 63% year on year. By choosing to carbon offset your flight with a simple click, you’re balancing out the CO2 produced by your journey enabling passengers to fly with minimal impact. British Airways have recently partnered with climate tech company CHOOOSE to help travellers understand their flight’s environmental impact and provide options to make positive change. The partnership allows customers to calculate their estimated impact on the environment, and choose to purchase sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to reduce the emissions resulting from their past, present and future flights. The new platform is another example of how airlines harness consumer demand for sustainable travel to minimise the impact that travel is having on our planet.