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How to Lower Your Carbon Footprint While Flying

Updated: May 3, 2023

Flying is the single biggest contributor to our carbon footprint, but there are certain ways we can lower the impact of the next flight.

There’s no way around it – catching a flight to travel is the biggest contributor to our personal carbon footprints. The easiest way to lower the carbon footprint of our flights is to simply cut down on flying altogether, and prioritise travelling via trains, buses, rideshares, or even simply cycling and walking. But alas, it’s not an option for a lot of people, and flights are here to stay.

Instead, while we wait for airlines to figure out how to make flying more sustainable, there are a few things that we can do ourselves to lower our carbon footprint while flying. Here's how.



1. Book a Non-Stop Flight

If you are choosing to fly to your next destination, it’s probably worth purchasing a direct flight. A journey with no layovers is the shortest distance between two points, meaning that the amount of fuel needed to get you from A to B is far less than if you were to stop off somewhere else.

Another reason to take a non-stop flight is that planes release the most amount of carbon when they’re taking off or landing. That means if you’re making multiple stops on your plane journey, it quickly adds up. Non-stop flights are a great way to lower your carbon footprint.

A man waiting in an airport during the golden hour
Avoiding layovers lets you lower your carbon footprint while flying.

2. Search for Flights with Low CO2 Emissions

It can be hard to tell which flights give out fewer emissions than others. One of the best systems currently in place is with Skyscanner, who actively advertise which flights come with a lower carbon footprint (keep an eye out for the green leaf when searching flights).

There are other ways to seek out lower emission flights as well, although it can be harder to judge without doing a bit of research. Newer planes are more fuel-efficient, which leads to less carbon in the atmosphere. There are also airlines and specific routes committed to using eco-friendly biofuel, although this can be difficult information to find out.

A colorful sky through the window of a low-emission flight
Low emission flights can be hard to find, but they do exist.

3. Choose an Eco-Friendly Airline

Another way to lower our carbon footprint when we fly is to choose an eco-friendly airline. Most airlines have now committed to becoming more environmentally friendly, but as usual, there are some that are taking that commitment more seriously than others. These airlines are using things like biofuel and advanced plane design to lower their footprint.

Alaska Airlines, Delta, American Airlines, Air France-KLM, EasyJet, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas; the list goes on. These are the best airlines in the world when it comes to a serious commitment toward lowering their environmental impact. For a breakdown of the world’s most eco-friendly airlines and what they’re doing, check out this article.

An eco-friendly airline plane landing at an airport runway
Not all airlines are equal - there are those who are serious about their environmental impact.

4. Fly Economy Class

It’s possible that hardly any readers will be flying first or business class, but if you do have the opportunity to enjoy these luxuries on your next flight, it’s better for the environment if you instead opt for economy class.

Flying business class means you’ll take up more space, which increases your carbon footprint by an astounding amount. Better to instead cram into economy class and use the money you’ll save to spend in the destination you’re going to, another way that we can make the cost of our flights worth it.

Business and first-class tickets also subsidise the cost of economy tickets. If everyone were to start flying economy class, the price of tickets would rise, leading eventually to fewer people flying, fewer flights in the skies, and less carbon released into our atmosphere.

If you are flying for your next trip, cram into economy class.

5. Pack Light Using Low-Impact Luggage

Packing light is a great start towards lowering your carbon footprint when you travel. That weight that you’re throwing in your suitcase leads to more fuel used on planes, trains, and buses, which of course leads to a larger carbon footprint. Lighter luggage is also better when it comes to saving you money as well.

Lowering our carbon footprint while travelling can also be done by carefully choosing the luggage systems and suitcases we invest in. Today, there’s a wide range of eco-friendly luggage brands that make stylish and practical suitcases, backpacks, and weekend bags from recycled and sustainable materials. Pretty neat.

A man with sustainable luggage stands in nature.
Packing light with sustainable luggage is another way to lower the impact of your flight.

6. Make Your Destination Count

If you are flying somewhere for your next journey instead of catching a bus or a train, it’s important that you choose a destination that counts. Why not choose a city, region, or country that is serious about its environmental impact?

While most countries have committed to becoming carbon neutral sometime in the next century, there are other destinations that are far ahead of the pack. For instance, Bhutan and Suriname are the only two carbon-negative countries in the world. Other countries doing well regarding their carbon include Iceland (powered by geothermal energy), Slovenia, Costa Rica, Palau, Oman, and more.

7. Travel Through an Environmentally Friendly Airport

Yes, there are such things as environmentally friendly airports. Whether it's by a sustainable design or the use of eco-friendly fuel for their vehicles on the ground, there's actually a surprising number of things an airport can do to lower their impact. Take Galapagos Airport, designed to become the world's first completely green airport. The airport runs entirely on renewable energy (wind and solar) and is constructed of 80% recycled materials.

The good news is that today there's a huge number of airports now moving toward carbon neutrality with help from the Airport Carbon Accreditation Program, the world's only carbon management certificate for airports. The overall aim? Aligning the airports with our current global climate targets.

8. Don't Count on Carbon Offset Programs

Carbon offset programs with airlines are becoming more controversial as the climate crisis worsens. These programs partly imply that if we offset our flights by planting trees, then we can go about our travel as usual. But far more important is to change the way we travel, take fewer flights, and focus more on sustainable journeys. It’s better to lower our impact rather than try to cover it up.

However, planting trees is always a wonderful thing to do. That’s why through our affiliate links. Of course, here at Green Guides, we’re also offsetting part of your travel through our affiliate links. However, first and foremost, we’re focusing on changing the way we travel so that we slow down, use alternative forms of transport, eat locally, and support eco-friendly hotels.

A forest of trees planted by a carbon offset program for travel.
Carbon offset programs don't let you off the hook - you should still travel responsibly.



This article contains affiliate links to products, hotels, and tours. If you make a purchase or reservation, we receive a small commission.


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