Greener Skies: How To Assuage Your Air Travel Guilt

Airplanes utilize a lot of fuel, rendering the term “green travel” a bit of an oxymoron. While it’s true that travel requires some fuel expenditure, jet-setters can take simple measures to decrease the environmental impact of their frequent flyer miles.

Credit: Tim Gouw, Pexels.

Any travel other than walking or biking increases our carbon footprint, but when everyone works together to choose more sustainable travel methods, the entire planet benefits. Follow these tips to prevent regular business trips from contributing to environmental catastrophe.

The Fewer Stops, the Better

Airplanes expend the most fuel during landing and takeoff, so choosing nonstop flights whenever possible helps to minimize the environmental impact of travel. While many marvel that it could take so much fuel to land a plane, industry professionals know the thin air higher in the atmosphere create less wind resistance, equating to reduced fuel consumption at cruising altitudes. Additionally, those with lengthy layovers often find themselves purchasing items like newspapers they wouldn’t ordinarily read to pass the time, creating extra waste.

Choose Airlines Carefully

Airplane architects understand the environmental impact of flying and have worked hard at designing more eco-friendly planes. Lighter planes require far less fuel, so opt for airlines that invest large amounts into improving fuel efficiency whenever possible. Researchers hope to someday power flight with bio-friendly fuels made from vegetable matter, but until they perfect this technique, consider an airlines’ commitment to sustainability when booking a flight.

Pack Lightly

Heavy suitcases decrease airplane fuel efficiency, as added weight requires more energy to propel. Decrease travel loads by taking advantage of hotel laundry services to wash and re-wear clothing instead of packing a separate outfit for each day.

Choose wardrobe options that do double-duty, such as a skirt that can be paired with a suit jacket during the day and dress up with some strappy heels for evenings on the town. Remember that travelers tend to fill every ounce of available luggage space with trinkets reminding them of their trip, so select the smallest suitcase as possible. The environment will thank you, not to mention your neck and back!

Donate to an Environmental Cause

Until flight evolves to the point where jet fuel emissions no longer cause environmental concerns, consider offsetting the impact of travel by donating to a charity devoted to preserving Earth’s natural resources. Many organizations host free tools on their websites to help world explorers estimate the carbon footprint of their journeys. Those with limited financial means can devote time to volunteering instead of donating.

Choose Souvenirs Carefully

Everyone loves bringing home mementos of their globe-trotting adventures, but particularly bulky, cumbersome objects may require separate shipping — as well as more jet fuel — to transport. Whenever possible, choose mementos that weigh comparatively little, such as jewelry, simple home decor items like wind chimes or lightweight clothes such as T-shirts.

Power Down

While those traveling on business may need to sign in while in transit to check work-related emails, those traveling for leisure should embrace the opportunity to disconnect. Even lightweight electronics like Chromebooks use up battery power, so leaving gadgets powered on increases energy requirements. Additionally, immediately uploading vacation photos to social media rolls out the welcome mat for thieves, and no one wants their holiday interrupted by phone calls to their insurance company to file a claim!

Pack a Snack

Most people fail to think about how their first-class dinner service impacts the environment, but as airlines create tons of food waste annually, taking a hard pass on pushing half-eaten broccoli around a tray lessons flight-related rubbish. Those flying coach often find themselves purchasing substandard snacks that usually carry a hefty sticker price per value received. Once passing through security, stop by the airport food court or corner convenience mart to stock up on provisions. Better yet, eliminate packaging waste by buying snacks in bulk before phoning the airport shuttle and storing them in small, reusable containers.

Carry Water

While young people today grew up in an age of fluid restrictions on commercial aircraft, many older travelers fondly recall the days when flying the friendly skies didn’t involve forced dehydration. Always carry an empty reusable water bottle in a carry-on bag and fill it once clearing security. Travelers can save money and the planet all while avoiding the interminable wait for the flight attendant to reach their row for refreshment.

A Greener Travel Future

Engineering experts constantly seek new ways to reduce the environmental impact of flying. However, everyone should do their part to reduce the impact their jaunts have on our planet. By flying wisely now, we can create a greener world to trek around tomorrow.