By flying direct, low cost and on new aircraft you can reduce the impact of your flight by up to 45%.
Airlines offer options to purchase offsets and fuel surcharges to alleviate travel’s carbon footprint.
Experts say carbon offsets are good, but they need to be chosen carefully.
Like many people who live in New York City, I’m not from here. I’m originally from Milan, Italy, and being a good busy daughter, I come home at least twice a year to visit my family.
That’s 4 flights, over 16,000 miles and 5.29 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the online emissions calculator Native.
That’s more than what a standard gas-powered car emits in a year and one-third of what the average American emits in a year, according to the MIT Climate Portal.
Fly AND pollutant. Aviation accounts for 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions: The United States accounts for 25% of all global aircraft emissions.
Start-ups and engineers are working to power planes with batteries and hydrogen. and airlines are embracing newer, more efficient aircraft, but there is currently no such thing as completely carbon-neutral travel.
But aside from flying less, or not flying at all—which my mother would frown on—there are ways to reduce your impact on the environment while flying.
Simple steps like flying direct, flying economy and choosing newer planes can reduce the impact of a specific trip by up to 45%, according to Sanchali Pal, founder and CEO of Commons, an app that lets you track and compensate your carbon emissions.
25% of a flight’s total emissions occur during takeoff and landing, which is why stopovers are discouraged and some airports are adopting optimized profile descents with engines idling. The more people that get on a plane, the more efficient the whole process is, which is why economics is better than business.
Airlines have also offered passengers the option to purchase compensation and surcharges to ease the impact of their travel.
Should you take them?
Offset – yes, but which ones
If a passenger takes a one-way flight from New York to Los Angeles, they emit 471.68 pounds of carbon dioxide, according to Southwest Airlines’ estimator tool. Pay $3.59, the airline says, and you can make up for it.
Southwest will take that $3.59 and invest it in a project that reduces or removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The offer is tempting, but some experts are skeptical that the money can actually do anything.
“If you’re buying an offset for $3, you’re not flying carbon neutral,” Daniele Rao, an aviation decarbonization expert at Carbon Market Watch, told Insider. “It’s impossible.”
Last year, Carbon Market Watch commissioned a study that examined the effectiveness of carbon offsets purchased by major European airlines. According to the study, “most of the carbon offset options offered by airlines came from cheap, low-quality projects with uncertain climate benefits and no guarantees of permanence.”
One popular and affordable offset project is a forestry project in a developing country, according to Carbon Market Watch. A standard forest project includes “storing” carbon in a forest, either by protecting it or by planting trees.
“The challenge with forest projects is maybe those trees would have been protected anyway, your dollars did nothing extra to keep them there,” Commons’ Sanchali Pal told Insider. “And how long have the trees been there? Trees have to be there for 30 years to absorb the amount of carbon we want them to absorb. What if they are burned by a forest fire?”
Pal’s company, Commons, spends a lot of time researching offsets to make sure they have an impact. The same one-way New York-Los Angeles flight that Southwest has for $3.59 would cost three times as much on the app.
Commons has a guide on its website on how to best choose offsets.
Refuel for fuel
Sustainable aviation fuel – similar to conventional jet fuel but with up to 80% fewer carbon emissions – is what all airlines are betting on to become more sustainable. But it’s currently scarce and expensive — it can cost up to 8 times what conventional jet fuel costs.
Some airlines, mostly European for now, are asking passengers to participate for the additional cost. AirFrance, for example, raised all its ticket prices by an amount ranging from 1 euro to 24 euros to cover the company’s increased use of sustainable aviation fuel.
Other airlines, such as Brussels Airlines, are asking passengers if they want to pay more for sustainable aviation fuel. A €174 ticket from Brussels, Belgium to Milan, Italy has a €132 surcharge if you want to buy sustainable aviation fuel, almost double the price, making it not the most attractive option for customers.
Read the original article on Business Insider