Carbon Footprint of Flying: Everything You Need to Know

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Individuals Air travel has become an integral part of life. Whether it’s a flight to a holiday destination, traveling for work, or visiting family, flying in the air helps us reach our destinations thousands of miles away in just a few hours.

At the same time, the growing popularity of air travel has become a pressing issue for the environment. As air travel increases, the carbon footprint of flying is becoming more prominent, which can significantly affect the climate and pollution levels.

With that in mind, let’s look at how much emissions does a plane produce and examine the impact of your e air travel carbon footprint now and in the future.

The Environmental Cost of Air Travel

The fact that airplane emissions are a big part of the climate change issues is not news. But even a few decades ago, the percentage of people that used air travel was dramatically smaller than today, with about 2 million passengers per year in 2004 and 4.5 million in 2019.

And when looking into the future, the prognosis is even bleaker. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that by 2035, 7.2 billion passengers will fly per year.

The first concern with such rising numbers is the CO2 emissions caused by airplane pollution. Although  CO2 contributions from flying are just a small percentage of global emissions, the increase in flight frequency will make this a more significant problem.

But the carbon footprint of flying goes beyond just CO2. It also emits significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, various particulates, and contrails, all of which add to the effects on the earth’s climate.

How Flying Affects Our Carbon Footprint

The impact of secondary airline emissions is just one reason why objectively measuring the effects of air travel is so complicated.

When measured only in terms of CO2 emissions, the carbon footprint of flying can look reasonable, in fact it may be comparable or even lower than some of the alternatives, at least when calculating per passenger.

But when secondary emissions are included, the negative impact of flying becomes much harder to ignore.

Substituting short distance vacation travel for long distance flights can help since traveling by car has a lower emissions impact per kilometer traveled than air travel. Eco-friendly alternatives such as bus, train, or coach travel are even better and can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

If flying is really the only alternative, try to take on less flight per year than you normally might.

How to Improve Your Carbon Footprint When Flying

Even though the airplane carbon footprint can have devastating effects, some air travel cannot be avoided. . Air travel has become an integral part of the world transportation system, and not using it would be too limiting.

However, there are things that you can do to improve your carbon footprint when flying. This starts with understanding what impact your decisions are having on the environment.

Travel economy class to use up less space in the plane and keep luggage to a minimum.  Look for flights (there are a few!) using biofuels.

For unavoidable emissions, offset your carbon footprint by donating to high-quality environmental carbon emission reduction projects that have a positive impact. One suggestion is to buy carbon offsets for flights from an organization such as Cool Effect.

Whenever possible, opt for alternative means of transportation. For domestic journeys, the carbon footprint of a flight is damaging. Taking the train or a bus can be much more eco-friendly, even if it takes a bit longer.

Regulating the Airline Industry’s Carbon Footprint

Even though some of the leading airlines in the world have taken active steps in reducing the air travel climate change impact, there is still much more that can be done. here have been significant steps that are making a difference.

Notable progress has been made by the  Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to set ambitious goals for reducing the carbon footprint of flying in the next fifteen years. This effort has been delayed by the effects of COVID on air travel, but longer-term will require a major group of world airlines to offset emissions.

According to some estimates, the program’s successful implementation could prevent as much as 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions from being released into the atmosphere between 2021 and 2035.

Ways to Reduce Airline Emissions

Until improved technology can make enough progress to reduce airplane pollution, or while certain regulations are only being developed, finding a personal way to reduce your impact on the environment remains the best way to contribute.

Across the globe, eco-friendly transport is becoming more readily available, so making the right choice is easier.

For most short-haul travel, opting for public transport like train or shuttle services will remain the best option for the foreseeable future.

When traveling by car carpooling is another way to reduce the impact of your trip.  Also when considering a new car, consider a hybrid or electric car which can minimize your climate impact.

Work with Cool Effect

At Cool Effect, we believe that it’s possible to offset the negative impact of airline emissions by purchasing high-quality carbon credits from projects that are verifiably reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To offset the carbon emissions from your flights, use our Offset Calculator to determine how much impact your travel has on the planet, and then buy a carbon offset to support a project today!