How To Be Concious Of The Environment While Flying

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The IATA is preparing to combat the negativity brought on by the flight shaming movement. The aviation industry has been active in stepping towards becoming more environmentally-friendly of late and that’s great. But the responsibility to fly eco-friendly is an individual choice, not just an industry obligation.

How do you keep the environment in mind when flying? Photo: NASA/ Eddie Winstead via Wikimedia Commons

The individual impact

The world is honing in on the environment. Talk has been circulating for a while about the effect of the aviation industry prompting a flight shaming movement. But airlines have been fighting back. There have been changes to environmental policies, removal of single-use plastics, developments in the recyclable jet fuel industry and an aggressive contest to become the world’s greenest airline.

But no matter what airlines can boast at achieving, the fundamental crux to solving the climate crisis and taking better care of the environment comes down to the individual. It’s no use waiting for solutions to be proffered when the environment is suffering by the day. There are already options out there that, whilst not complete solutions, can help offset the environmental impact of the aviation industry. It’s just that the method requires more thought…

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CO2 emissions

Let’s start with the most targeted area of the aviation industry; CO2 emissions. The aviation industry is responsible for 2.5% of the world’s global carbon dioxide emissions. But that’s not just from flights taken. The type of aircraft also counts. A lot of airlines have been very vocal about how their investment in new planes with reduced fuel burn is resulting in better fuel efficiency. And of course, better fuel efficiency means fewer harmful emissions released during the course of an aircraft’s operation.

A young fleet like Norweigan’s is better for the environment. Photo: Norweigan Airlines

Choose to fly with airlines that offer more fuel-efficient aircraft within an overall younger fleet. Generally speaking, younger aircraft are more environmentally friendly. They have the technologies which ensure the aircraft can operate on a more fuel-efficient basis and are generally more reliable. At 2.8 years old, Norweigan Airlines has one of the youngest fleets in the world. Budget airline FlyDubai also has a relatively young fleet at 4.2 years old. You can find more information about the youngest airlines in the world in this article.

But aircraft type also counts for something. Some of the world’s most environmentally-friendly aircraft at the moment include Boeing’s 787-8 and 787-9 as well as the grounded 737 MAX. And Airbus also offers a good selection including the A320 neo family and A350-900. Whether you choose to fly with an airline with a younger fleet or not, checking which aircraft operates a route you want to fly will give you a better understanding of the impact of your travel.

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Carbon offsetting

Carbon offsetting is important for all industries and not just the aviation world. But many airlines have already begun making changes in this area. From 1st January, Air France will implement mandatory carbon offsetting on domestic flights. What does that mean? However much CO2 emissions Air France produces from domestic flights, it will cut out of the environment in other ways.

Similarly, China Airlines started an ECO TRAVEL project last year which allows passengers to measure how much CO2 they produce on their flight and then offset that amount with a partner company. Passengers pay to fund the partner company that will put the money into projects that take CO2 out of the environment.

easyJet is looking to offset all carbon emissions. Photo: Simple Flying / Joanna Bailey

But, if you do your research, you’ll find a host of airlines doing their bit for carbon offsetting. British Airways wants to join Air France’s motion. easyJet wants to completely offset all of its carbon emissions. And United Airlines is ready to invest $40 million to offset carbon emissions.

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Ditch single-use plastics

Ditching single-use plastics isn’t just advice for the aviation industry but a daily adage. However, it surely won’t have escaped your notice just how many airline products come swaddled in plastic covering. Food, headphones, blankets, cutlery, bottled water. The waste factor in itself is not good when landfill sites are overflowing, producing dangerous health risks as well as damage to natural wildlife.

Not all plastic produced is recycled, leaving it buried underground for many years before it decomposes. Or the plastic lands up in the sea and infiltrates our food system. And it’s production isn’t exactly eco-friendly either. Needless to say, single-use plastic is bad.

KLM has come up with an innovative method to recycle plastic. Photo: Simple Flying/Thomas Boon

But some airlines recently have come up with innovative ways to tackle the plastic challenge. KLM is recycling its used plastic bottles to create pellets in order to 3D print tools for aircraft maintenance. And airports, like Atlanta International, are removing single-use plastics from their operations. Etihad and Hi Fly have also both operated plastic-free flights within the year.

If your airline is not one of the ones on the forefront of ditching single-use plastics, you yourself can be conscious of what single-use plastic you use whilst flying.

Friend or foe?

And, finally… no one really wants to be told to fly less. Flying across the world is liberating and fun, but the amount we fly is a reality that we need to face up to. Long haul flights are incredibly damaging, but oftentimes they can’t be replaced with another mode of transport. However, domestic travel and short-haul flights often can. If there are other ways to travel that don’t require an aircraft, make the most of it and you’ll be well on the way to reducing your personal carbon footprint.

Are you conscious of your air travel? What do you do personally to protect the environment? Let us know below!

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