How to Reduce the Impact of Air Travel

You’re keeping your travel as eco-friendly as possible, but sometimes, you have no choice but to fly up, up, and away. On those occasions, try to make the rest of your trip as green as possible by following these suggestions:

  • Try to take direct flights rather than those that make stops en route. Taking off and landing use up more fuel than cruising at high altitude, so a trip that includes a few hops costs you more in carbon emissions. Keep in mind when you’re choosing flights that many low-cost airlines fly via a third location rather than non-stop, so it’s less costly to the environment to seek a different airline.

  • Find an airline that uses newer model planes. Newer planes tend to offer better fuel economy than older ones.

  • Choose daytime flights. Studies show that jet contrails (those white lines of exhaust that streak the sky behind planes) can contribute to warming the atmosphere because as they disperse they can trap heat radiating up from the earth. This is especially true at night because during the day, the contrails partially offset the heat trap effect by radiating light from the sun away from the earth.

  • Pack light. Every pound of weight that a plane carries increases the amount of fuel that it burns, so reducing your luggage weight actually reduces your environmental impact — and it makes your luggage easier to carry, too!

  • If you have a choice between economy class and business or first class, choose the less comfortable (and less expensive) economy seat. It makes sense from an environmental point of view because the more passengers that an aircraft carries, the less fuel is burned per passenger. When you choose an economy seat, you’re responsible for fewer emissions than if you choose a seat in a roomier class of travel. (Although each passenger’s weight costs the airline some fuel, there’s a huge fuel cost in the airplane’s weight, and carrying more passengers distributes this fixed cost among more people.)

  • Purchase carbon offsets. These shares of sorts basically go toward reducing the same amount of environmental costs that your trip expends.

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