How to Fly Ethically

If you’re jetting off to sunnier climes on your annual family holiday this summer, or if you’re a frequent business flyer, do you ever consider the impact of air travel on the planet?

Well, it’s pretty grim. One return flight from London to New York produces a greater carbon footprint than our personal allowance for the whole year.

Our individual carbon footprint is the estimated amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted as we travel, purchase and eat food, and generally live our lives.

In the UK, the average personal footprint is 10.3t, up from 7.1t five years ago, and in the US, the average is 14.9t. In 2018, carbon emmissions reached an all time high, which is worrying when we’re in the midst of a climate emergency. In order to get to a safe level, our individual total must be cut to 1.2t.

The average person obviously can’t plant a forest every time they take to the skies but we can reduce our footprint in a number of ways, for example, by opting for renewable energy in the home, reducing travel or opting for staycations and public transport, and by choosing vegetarian and vegan food options, the latter of which can reduce an individual’s footprint by up to 73%, according to a study at Oxford University.

It’s reassuring to know that, as individuals, we can make a tangible impact on reducing carbon emissions, however, there are growing number of people who are examining their travel habits and feeling a sense of “flight shame”, to the point of forgoing air travel completely.

The airline industry is working hard on new technologies like biofuels and electric planes, which could significantly reduce impact, but they require significant investment and will take time which, when considering the IPCC deadline, we don’t have.

Clearly the most obvious way to resolve the problem is to avoid flying but in our modern, consumerist society, that is unlikely to happen.

The first step, therefore, in travelling as efficiently as possible is to use Atmosfair’s airline ranking to see which airlines are the most efficient. You can then opt to offset flight emissions.

Carbon offsets are voluntary schemes where people can pay to ‘offset’ or counteract the emissions that their flights produce. The offset schemes fall into two categores; forestry projects – which either stop existing trees being cut down or plant new ones – and energy projects, which reduce the amount of fossil fuels used by investing in energy efficient products or renewable technology. The key is to ensure that you choose a scheme that conforms to the Verified Carbon Standard or Clean Development Mechanics.

To find out more about how you can measure your carbon footprint, take a look at the Nature Conservancy’s carbon footprint calculator which takes you through every aspect of your lifestyle and helps you to take action.

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