The travel industry has been consciously upping its eco game for a while, but now all eyes are on aviation to address the most crucial conundrum: how to meet the growing demands of air travel (which, by 2037, is set to reach 8.2 billion passengers per year) while reducing emissions. To address this, airlines are pushing for the adoption of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) – derived from sustainable oil crops or wood and waste biomass – in commercial flights. The first test flight was in 2008, and it is now estimated that one million commercial flights will be operated on SAF by next year, according to research by IATA (International Air Transport Association). The industry is also increasing its efforts to develop new sources of energy to replace jet fuel, such as the use of hydrogen-powered and electric aircrafts.
Earlier this year, Shell Aviation brought together some of the world’s major airlines and authorities for a proactive, in-depth discussion about the energy challenges being faced and the need to adopt more carbon-management solutions. Here are some things to consider when flying in the future.
ESTIMATE YOUR EMISSIONS
Use the ICAO emissions calculator (it takes into account factors such as journey length and aircraft fuel burn) to estimate the carbon footprint for an upcoming flight and choose an airline that offers the option to offset your carbon emissions by purchasing credible carbon credits generated by environmental projects when buying your tickets. The trick to offsetting is to make sure carbon credits equivalent to your carbon impact are used in the most beneficial way by being both high-quality and independently certified.
Shell Aviation supports nature-based enterprises including the Cordillera Azul National Park project (pictured below) in Peru and the Green Trees reforestation project in the USA. Such projects not only compensate for our emissions by absorbing the amount of carbon dioxide we emit, they also improve biodiversity, eco-systems and livelihoods for local communities. Offsetting is by far the most effective way to counterbalance racking up air miles right now.
BRING YOUR OWN EARPHONES
According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines generated 5.2 tonnes of waste in 2016 – some of which came from earphones (and the plastic they are wrapped in), which are often thrown away for hygiene reasons. The simple solution? Next time you want to watch back-to-back films on a long-haul flight, bring your own more comfortable, better quality pair onboard.
ORDER THE VEGETARIAN OPTION
Ever since the McCartney family launched Meat Free Mondays a decade ago, there’s been a growing awareness that what we eat has a hefty impact on the environment (meat and dairy production is the world’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions). So, with around a billion plane meals served each year, opting for the vegetable curry rather than the beef onboard makes a real difference to your carbon footprint.
It’s always tempting to cram a suitcase full-to-bursting, however packing less – or at least sticking to the correct baggage limit – helps lower an airline’s carbon emissions (and stops you bringing all those extra pairs of shoes you really don’t need). The heavier the flight, the more fuel required – which is just one more reason to avoid the weary wait at the carousel post flight and travel with hand baggage only.
AVOID SINGLE-USE PLASTIC CUPS
Taking a reusable water bottle onboard is a no brainer. Every time you accept yet another plastic cup – from the pre-take-off thimble of fizz for those sitting in premium to a mid-flight vitamin C boost of orange juice – it just gets crumpled up and thrown away. As well as making sound eco sense, refilling your water bottle also means it’s easier to stay properly hydrated during a flight.
TAKE ONE FLIGHT, NOT TWO
Of course the most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is not to fly at all – but if you can’t do that, then try to fly less. Book to go direct – that last-minute flight via Doha might be marginally cheaper but during take-off (including taxiing) and landing is when an aircraft produces the largest amount of emissions. Take one flight instead of two and your environmental impact is immediately halved.