We all know that not all airlines are the same? They carry a different logo, colors, language, in flight magazine. The uniforms can be bland or sexy and ticket prices may well vary.
But have you ever picked an airline for being eco-friendly? Ever wondered how green is your flight?
Before you book your next flight, there are a few facts you might want to consider.
Before covid-19, in Europe alone, direct emissions from aviation accounted for about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 2% of global emissions. If global aviation was a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters.
Someone flying from Paris to New York and back generates roughly the same level of emissions as the average person in the EU does by heating their home for a whole year.
At the start of 2020, global annual international aviation emissions were already around 70% higher than in 2005. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasted that, in the absence of additional measures by 2050 they could grow by over further 300%.
2020 took a start with the corona virus hurting the airline industry badly. The damage is still left to be overseen. Worldwide planes stayed on the ground. But as most countries are slowly but surely coming out of lock down, people start flying again. In the worst case scenario it might take up to five years before we are back at pre-corona levels. The good news: we will have gained time.
Time to undertake action ! Action by politics, followed up by the airline industry or taken voluntarily.
Actions taken by you & me !
“I say, let’s work together to make flying sustainable. CO2 is the problem. We can and are doing something meaningful to reduce it.”
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director General and CEO.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), based in Montreal, Canada, supports aviation with global standards for airline safety, security, efficiency and sustainability.
IATA is working with industry partners worldwide to reduce the industry’s fuel requirements. In addition, they are working with individual airlines to ensure they have a robust internal “fuel efficiency program” in place.
IATA is determined to be part of the solution but insists that, in order to achieve these targets, a strong commitment is required from all stakeholders working together on all levels. This is their current 12-step program:
- Working together towards ambitious targets to combat climate change
- Develop Sustainable Aviation Fuel ( SAF )
- Build New Technologies
- Offset CO2 emissions with CORSIA ( the ICAO carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation )
- Enable voluntary carbon offsetting
- Manage cabin waste by launching the first cabin waste handbook
- Combat Wildlife Trafficking
- Improve the local environment
- Facilitate environmental reporting and compliance
- Balance business and the environment
- Help aircraft decommissioning
- Reach out to travelers through its Fly Aware platform
The Fly Aware Platform for individual travelers
Committed to change the way we fly, IATA has listed a few recommendations.
FLY NET ZERO
It might seem too good to be true, but it really is possible to fly without increasing your personal carbon footprint. Voluntary offsetting schemes, often sold with airline tickets, enable passengers to pay a small fee to fund environmental programs around the world – offsetting your personal carbon footprint generated by a flight.
Weight has a huge effect on how quickly a plane burns fuel, and even minor reductions can make a big difference to global CO2 emissions. The aviation industry has been working hard to reduce the weight of aircraft, but passengers can make a difference, too. While many of the changes below may seem inconsequential, multiplied across every flight, they can make a huge difference.
Over the years I have learned to only travel with the minimum of clothes. And even so, I always carry too many. It is more eco-friendly to do your laundry ( provided you use a green detergent ) every week than traveling with a suitcase worth a 3-weeks load.
Use light reusable containers for your soap & shampoo if you are hooked on your favorite brand, or skip the toiletries all together and buy them locally.
Pack one jeans instead of two and see what difference you will make. For example, if every passenger flying from Heathrow to Frankfurt last year had packed one less pair of jeans (assuming these jeans weighed 1kg), they would have saved 59 tonnes of CO2.
Read your books on your tablet or kindle. I am sure you can come up with at least 10 other ideas how to reduce weight when you travel.
TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY FROM A TO Z
There are lots of ways to get to the airport. What do you do before you get on the plane? Quid once you reach your destination. Here are just a few tips you can make a change.
- Take public transportation on your trip where and when you can
- Don’t fly when you can drive
- Bring a reusable bottle
- Choose eco-friendly hotels
- Support eco-friendly tour companies
MAKE YOUR BUSINESS TRAVEL GREENER
Offsetting enables organizations to fly without increasing their overall carbon footprints and compensate for flight emissions due to business travel by financing a reduction in emissions elsewhere. This could be anything from investing in wind and solar projects to reforestation efforts.
Book an eco-friendly hotel for your staff
Virtual Meetings : the corona-virus crisis has made us well aware of the benefits modern technology brought to collaborate with people all around the world, without leaving the office. Companies can now easily safe on travel costs and hereby reduce their CO2 emissions.
The green way led by committed airlines!
With green travel increasingly finding resonance among flyers and corporate, airlines too, are factoring in eco-friendly initiatives into their business strategies.
From using bio-fuels to revamping in-flight food and drinks services, eschewing mass-produced chicken/eggs in favor of local, farm-raised options to offering eco-friendly toys for children, inventive measures are underway to encourage carbon-neutral practices.
In November 2016, Alaska Airlines flew the world’s first commercial flight powered in part by forest residuals bio fuels. Interestingly, this new bio fuel was manufactured from sustainable parts of trees (harvested by indigenous communities) that are left after environmentally-friendly logging occurs.
Similarly, KLM was testing algae-based fuel and another version that uses partially recycled cooking oil, while Air New Zealand and Japan Airlines have both conducted tests with fuel extracted from jatropha flowers.
MORE EFFICIENT AIRCRAFT
Some airlines are investing in new, more-efficient aircraft, regularly using a range of fuel saving initiatives such as single engine taxiing, real-time weather technology that help pilots make smarter route choices.
After labor, fuel represents the largest cost component in airlines operations. An effective and efficient way of reducing costs and CO2 emissions is to use less fuel.
ON BOARD – WEIGHT MANAGEMENT TO SAVE ON FUEL
Some airlines have swapped bulky trolleys with more compact and light-weight ones to serve in-flight meals. Even blankets and tableware are getting a makeover to reduce the overall weight and thus save fuel.
New slim line seats are being installed on some planes to not only provide travelers with more leg room, but also to reduce load.
ON BOARD – SUSTAINABLE MENUS
Maybe the best example comes from Virgin Atlantic . VA partners with the Sustainable Restaurant Association to ensure that its 5.5 million meals served on board each year meet the key principles of humanely farmed meat and dairy, sustainably sourced fish and seafood, and reduced deforestation-risk food.
The airline has also struck off from its menu food that contributes to deforestation such as soy, palm oil and beef. All menus on the airline’s Caribbean routes now use rapeseed oil¸ which saves 100 tonnes of palm oil per year.
Singapore Airlines is stepping up its own sustainability program.
Reducing the use of single-use plastics with alternative sustainable materials
The airline has a few plans up its sleeve to reduce the use of plastics. Singapore Airlines has already stopped handing out plastics straws to adults on board since last September 2019. Next is to aim for becoming a completely plastic straw-free airline after replacing children’s plastic straws with eco-friendly paper straws.
The moves, the airline claimed, could bring down the circulation of about 820,000 plastic straws each year.
The carrier plans to print coloring books and activity kits for kids with eco-friendly soy-based ink. May 2019 onward, Singapore Airlines will use recyclable paper packaging for children’s toys.
Comes their next new initiative “From Farm to Plane”, similarly targeting to promote environmental sustainability and buttress local farmers’ communities, increasingly serving more sustainable and meatless ingredients, as well as local produce, in its in-flight meals.
The last time I flew from Buenos Aires to Europe on a KLM-flight, we were asked to use our personal earplugs instead of accepting the one distributed on board. This makes so much sense.
From putting more women in leading roles, to serving sustainable tuna and coffee on board, KLM features an ever growing sustainability program they proudly call KLM Takes Care.
The Indian airline Vistara pledges to recycle the sponges from headsets to surface an equestrian center, while disused plastiboard are being re purposed into benches.
Vistara is similarly adopting measures to minimize the use of plastics in its in-flight meal and is the only carrier in India to serve oxo-biodegradable cutlery.
“We’re replacing plastic casseroles with aluminium dishes, plastic straws and stirrers with paper/wooden ones, and disposable bowls in economy class with reusable ones. We’re actively working to reduce dependence on plastic bottles,” according to a Vistara spokesperson.
We live in a world dominated by ever improving technologies, growing awareness, commitment. Commitment to change starts with oneself. Change never stops.
So next time you book a flight, think twice. Think what you can do to travel more sustainably.
Google the airline first. Check to see how they contribute to flying greener by looking for their sustainability program . You’re in for a life-changing read. Our planet, our lives are at stake !
My gratitude goes to WealthyAffiliates for their encouragement & technical support. Without WA this website would not exist. To my parents, my teachers, my friends, who raised me into a responsible human.