Flying and eco-friendly in the same sentence is a little bit of an oxymoron, but most of us fly. Whether we're traveling for work or to see our families, flying is here to stay.
The best thing you can do is to reduce the amount you travel. Try to fly sparingly. When you're traveling in a group a short distance, it's actually better to drive.
When you have to fly, there are a couple of things you can do to make the flight a little more eco-friendly.
1. Non-Stop Flights vs. Layovers:
NASA released a report about fuel consumption and emissions in 2010. Their study found 25% of the emissions produced were from taxiing, landing, and take off.
The majority of that 25% of emissions were from taxiing. It's better to taxi and take-off as little as possible... to a point.
On a long flight, half of the aircrafts weight can be jet fuel. If you stop for a layover, the plane doesn't have to carry as much fuel reducing your emissions.
The sweet spot for flying is about 5 hours. If it's five hours and under, go for a direct flight. Anything in the 8-14 hour range, is going to have a much higher environmental impact.
An unrelated but fascinating study talks about planes and climate change. Smaller planes cannot take off in hotter weather because the air is too thin. Have a read.
2. Economy Seating:
No matter how long of a distance you're flying, economy seating is hands down the way to go. The more bodies you fit on the plane the lower the carbon footprint.
This study found that flying business class results in a carbon footprint 3 times higher than flying economy, and first class passengers is a whopping 9 times higher!
Just another example of how going green can save you some money.
3. EMPTY water bottle and snacks:
Airport food is pricey and often over packaged. Pack some snacks for your flight in your bag, and bring an empty water bottle with you.
Once you're through security you can fill your water bottle up at a water fountain. Water fountains are typically located near the bathrooms, but if you can't find one pop into a cafe or coffee shop.
They will be able to fill your bottle up for you before you leave the flight.
If you do get a can of soda or bottle of water on the flight, make sure you bring the recycling with you off the plane and recycle it in the airport. On the plane, everything tends to be lumped into the trash.
4. Travel Sized:
Instead of buying single-use, mini-bottles of everything for your trip, buy bottles meant to be refilled, or keep refilling the mini-bottles you already have. Decant your larger liquids into these smaller ones.
You can also buy a clear quart zippered bag that can be reused time and time again without having to use a plastic baggie.
Of course, I can't mention flying without mentioning offsets. Many airlines offer this as an option when you purchase your ticket. Offsets are fairly inexpensive and generally fall into several different categories. The most popular is planting trees.
Trees suck carbon out of the air, so they're a clear choice for many. Other options include investing in clean energy projects and energy efficiency.
The bottom line is flying isn't super great for the environment, but there are a lot of strides being taken to make it better. Many airlines are testing bio-fuels, and the first solar flight flew from Abu Dhabi to Hawaii.
I have a lot of hope for the future of air travel.