Summer may be coming to an end, but some of you may be looking at flight prices for your winter holiday travels in the meantime (I am!) It’s a fact that air traveling is one of the biggest pollutants to the environment, but for most people, it’s also unavoidable and makes them feel very ecoguilty.
So what’s the verdict? Is it better to travel by car/train/bus/ferry? When it comes to other modes of transport that also use fuel, it depends on the destination and miles traveled, so there isn’t one clear definitive answer. If you’re traveling short distances, opting for a car or public transportation is better. When flight is the only option, there are still ways to reduce your environmental impact and carbon footprint during your travel.
1. Reduce energy before you leave your trip
Turn off and unplug all your electronics and appliances before you leave. Energy still runs when something is off, but plugged. If you use power strips, simply flick the off switch to truly turn everything off. This is also a good habit to try if you’re normally a person who rushes out the door panicking about getting to the airport on time because it forces you to be prepared before you leave.
2. Bring a reusable water bottle
I will forever repeat this tip because it’s that important and that easy. Why pay for $5 water at the airport when you can just refill your bottle for free? A lot of airports have upgraded their water fountains and are now specifically designed to have a bottle underneath rather than tilting your bottle awkwardly only to have it filled halfway. Now you can say, “no thanks” to the flight attendant when he/she comes down the aisle with the beverage cart. If you do have to buy a bottle at some point, keep it and refill it so you don’t have to buy new ones every time you’re thirsty.
3. Take public transportation to/from the airport
The last time I took a cab to the airport, I found out I cannot sit in NYC traffic with a stranger driving because I embarrassingly got car sick as a result. So after that, I’ve been taking the subway and air shuttle to the airport and I very much prefer it for many reasons other than the obvious one of cutting down carbon emissions. It forces me to pack lightly since I’m schlepping a suitcase on the streets and subway platforms (I’ve gotten used to the sound of wheels rolling against concrete.) In a lot of metro cities, public transportation from the airport to the city is very accessible and common. I’ve been to Paris, Stockholm, Montreal, and Chicago, where even locals prefer public transportation to and from the airport.
4. Take public transportation there
While we’re on the topic of public transportation, continue using it if it’s a norm in the city you’re visiting! I love exploring cities through public transportation. Not only is it less expensive and probably faster, it’s an easy way to get to know the city. If public transportation is not an option, rent a hybrid car. Plan your trips accordingly so you’re not wasting gas (and time!) getting lost or going back and forth between the same neighborhoods and sights.
5. Take a non-stop flight on an eco-friendly airline
A lot of fuel is dedicated to the take-off and landing, so taking a non-stop flight reduces carbon emissions immensely. Non-stop flights are also less stressful and that’s always a good thing when it comes to traveling, right? Bonus points for airlines that are dedicated in sustainability and do their best to reduce their footprint like recycling, carbon offsetting, alternative types of fuel, and investment in new aircrafts. Virgin America and Jetblue are up there in the ranks of most eco-friendly airlines in the U.S., while Air France and Lufthansa take the lead for international airlines.
6. Choose a green hotel or stay at an Airbnb
Hotels by nature are known for using a lot of energy – think all the rooms, washing linens after every use, single-use toiletries, and air conditioning running all the time. Each room can cost an average of $2,196 in energy. A lot of hotels have now implemented greener options including installing LED lights, only washing linens upon request, or offering activities that support the local community. Airbnbs are another good option because the energy used in a home is significantly less than a hotel building. Everything is cleaned after your stay, reducing water waste and many hosts offer green choices like recycling, travel mugs, and reusable totes.