By Frances Stacey
As we have become more eco-conscious as a society, travelling becomes trickier. Nowadays it’s common to hop on a plane for work related obligations or to see friends or family who live abroad. But these actions come with a substantial price; emissions from flights generate around 2% of the world’s total CO2 emanations. That’s 705 million tonnes of CO2 each year, which should put pressure on the aviation industry to reduce their carbon footprint, but infuriatingly, the government’s refusal to tax jet fuel in many countries often makes it cheaper to fly than to take the train!
Cheap airfares also manage to tempt those who actually don’t need to travel to do so more frequently; it’s almost seems criminal given the recent increases in CO2 emissions that people in Europe can blissfully purchase holiday homes in different countries, or think nothing of having a birthday party abroad. ‘Why not?’ they figure ‘when inviting friends abroad can cost less per head than a night out in an expensive London restaurant!’
Clearly, it’s become our responsibility to start saying NO to cheap airlines for the mere intention of embarking on countless, unnecessary trips. But when travelling becomes unavoidable, we need to start educating ourselves on different ways of reducing our carbon footprint.
1. Reduce Flights Whenever Possible
The UK aviation industry alone is expecting an 80% increase in passenger numbers by 2024 – possibly a consequence of ridiculously low priced flights. It’s insane that trains are more costly in many cases, but honestly, this is a greener and sometimes lower-stress way of travelling, especially when in Europe, where trains are far superior to the dirty, overcrowded ones we have here in the UK. You can also get lower train fares if you book in advance or have a student card. Potential changes in government policies may force airline companies to start using sustainable fuels, thus reducing pollutant emissions by 80% and making the possibility of reducing the atmosphere’s overall CO2 concentration seem more promising.
According to Bespoke Air Charter, since 2011 there have been around 1,500 flights using biofuels made from algae, jatropha and camelina. This is however, a miniscule breakthrough into greener air travel considering a whopping 3.1 billion passengers were transported via air flights in 2013 alone. But, we need to think optimistically – what this does show is that biofuels are becoming more popular, and have the potential to sustainably revolutionise the aviation industry.
If you work for a company that frequently sends you abroad for meetings or seminars, encourage them to hold virtual meetings instead – given improvements in teleconferencing, there’s really no excuse not to use this time and pollution-saving method of doing business.
2. Offset Your Flights
When it’s impossible not to fly, make sure you at least offset that travel. Large corporations such as EasyJet use a ‘Carbon Calculator’ to estimate each customer’s emissions based on the journey length, luggage load and aircraft’s fuel burn. If you so choose, a small sum can be added to the cost of flights to be donated to the Perlabi Hydroelectric Project in Ecuador, which carries out extensive efforts in environmental auditing.
Over 30 members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have introduced the addition of a carbon emission offset program integrated into either their own web-sales engines or advertise trusted links to a third party offset provider. The recent influx of carbon offsetting programmes claim that for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted an equivalent tonne is removed from the atmosphere elsewhere. Customers are thus able to contribute to pollutant-removal organisations all over the world, and thus aid the reduction of their own carbon footprint.
3. Travel Greener Once You Arrive
After arriving at your desired destination, it’s always best to make the most of the locations public transport options. There are plenty of ways to find out how to do and luckily it can be done from the ease of your very own smartphone. The launch of new public transport Apps such as Moovit and Citymapper provide you with all of the latest travel updates and timetables for buses, trains, cycle routes and even live directions for walking. Both of these apps cost absolutely nothing, and offer the fastest public transport options from your current location or a selected address on a global platform.
Once you’re in town, many cities have bike rental schemes that allow you to rent bike and travel anywhere in a reasonable distance with your credit card. You normally have to register in advance for these – so for a last minute rush they may not be your best option! Instead, register for the schemes before you go if possible.
If all else fails and you can’t figure out the local transport service, private taxi services like Uber and Green Tomato enable you to use eco-friendlier methods of travel by providing electric vehicles and using carpooling schemes to help get you from A to B.
4. Use Clean Energy Abroad
So now you’ve made it to the hotel, but have forgotten to bring a power adapter. Never fear, there’s always solar energy! More and more companies such as XTG technology are producing compact travelling solar chargers that give you emergency power on the go. The devices can either be charged through USB cables or via direct sunlight and play host to numerous cable outputs that can charge your phone, tablet or camera.
Even if you are travelling with no electricals at all you can still tell the time and get your train home on time – Bedol have the perfect answer, a water-powered alarm clock! The revolutionary product converts ions in salt water to produce clean energy power, now also available as a watch and in eight fashionable colours, the water doesn’t need to be replaced for 6 months.