In the general environmental discussion, views on flying are usually quite black-and-white with “fly” or “don’t fly” as the only options. However, most of us do need to fly for work or in order to go on holiday, so instead of just shrugging our shoulders, we should give some consideration to the choices we make when booking our flights.
Here are my best 10 tips for reducing the environmental load of your flight and the entire trip.
1) When you do fly, don’t just look for the cheapest fare. Instead, study the emission calculators available on the web provided by airlines. Unfortunately, there is no calculator available that would list all of your options, but a fairly good one can be found at Flysmart ( http://www.responsibletourismpartnership.or/flysmart.html). In general, airlines’ own emissions calculators give the most reliable information regarding an airline’s fleet and load factors. Finnair’s emissions calculator (http://www.finnair.fi/paastolaskuri) and environmental report ( http://www.finnairgroup.com/en/index.html) provide excellent information. These can be referred to for facts on aircraft fleet, emissions, and the general environmental awareness of an airline.
2) Pick a direct flight whenever you can. By choosing non-stop flights, or at least flights that are headed in the right direction from the start, you can save your own energy as well as the environment. On very long flights (over 10 hours, for example) the environmentally friendlier option is to stop on the way. The reason is that in order to complete an ultralong non-stop flight, so much fuel is needed that carrying it actually consumes a lot of extra.
3) If you change flights on the way, make sure that the first flight you take is already headed the right way; otherwise you are wasting your valuable time and fuel flying for hours in the wrong direction and back again. Instead of studying a traditional flat map, take a look at the globe – you are probably in for a surprise when you compare the actual length of different routes. For example, the flight from Helsinki to London takes almost three hours, but the flight time from London to New York is only an hour less than the non-stop flight time from Helsinki to New York. In addition, don’t forget to add waiting times at the airport to flight times when you are considering a non-stop flight.
4) Change flights at an airport that is not congested. Mega-hubs are inefficient, and aircrafts consume even 10% more fuel circling around a busy airport and airspace waiting to land. By the way, did you know that there are three runways at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, in comparison with only two at the much larger London Heathrow?
5) Choose an airline that has a modern aircraft fleet. Every new generation of aircrafts consume at least 20% less energy than its predecessor and therefore generates fewer emissions.
6) When traveling short distances, taking the train is an ecologically efficient choice! When traveling further, a good option is a plane + train combination, in which you fly to a destination and then continue your journey by rail.
7) Choose a hotel that takes environmental issues into consideration. Save water, and don’t get your sheets and towels changed every day. Don’t waste, but recycle instead. Switch off the lights and the air conditioning when you’re not in the room.
8 ) Support the local economy, especially in developing countries, by using local hotels and services.
9) Use public transportation. You’ll meet locals and get to experience areas outside the main tourist attractions. For example, hop on a double-decker in London and ride the route from beginning to end – you’ll get to see a lot!
10) Nowadays there are plenty of lists and tips available on the web, which take the social and environmental responsibility of holiday travel into account. For example Sustainable Travel International (link http://www.sustainabletravelinternational.org/) and Ethical Travel Portal (link: http://www.ethicaltravelportal.com/resp_tourism.php)
Last but not least: every choice you make is an environmental choice. By taking heed of these tips, you can genuinely affect the environmental impact of your trip.