Co-authored by Sreeram Sridhar.
Our ecological footprint matters if we intend to live a sustainable life. One of the biggest contributors to this footprint is our travel, particularly air travel. According to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation, the CO2 emission by airlines has increased by 32% from 2013 to 2018. Using a simple method like the Ecological Footprint Calculator, you’ll be able to see that one inter-continental air travel can alter your ecological footprint by at least 2 global hectares (gha). Many people who tried out the calculator from an earlier post on Eco-intelligent (How can you develop environmental accountability?) shared this view. Thus, it becomes imperative to manage our air travel in order to reduce our ecological footprint.
The best way to do this? We suggest that you don’t travel by air. This is especially the case when you are travelling short distances to locations within your country or within the small region connected by railroads. Travel within Europe or a country like India can be easily done using the railways, reducing your footprint and also allowing you to enjoy beautiful vistas.
If at all you do need to travel by air, travelling economy would be a great way to reduce your footprint. Business-class travel has a larger footprint because of the greater space you occupy in the flight. And of course, avoid private jets at all costs.
Voluntary Carbon Offset Programs
In addition to reducing your footprint by travelling economy, you can also mitigate your ecological footprint by opting for voluntary carbon offset programs run by the airline you are travelling with. Emissions are calculated per ticket, based on the distance traveled, time taken for the travel, space occupied by the passenger, etc., to arrive at a figure for the CO2 that passenger would account for. A cost against this emission is calculated, and if the passenger is willing, is charged to him/her by the airline. This cost becomes the airline’s contribution to carbon mitigation projects around the world.
For example, according to an initiative by the Swiss-based myclimate foundation in partnership with Lufthansa, an Economy class passenger’s CO2 emission from Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) to John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is 842 kg and the amount to offset the same is EUR 17.00/Rs.1356.91.
Another example of a great CO2 offset program is by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and according to them an Economy class passenger’s CO2 emission from Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) to John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is 862 kg and the amount to offset the same is EUR 7.22/Rs.576.
The computation methodology used by different airlines is different and is usually a closely-guarded secret. As in the above examples, we notice that the CO2 emission is slightly different, but there is a difference of 57.5% in the amount.
Regardless, we believe that the initiative is what truly counts. By acknowledging the huge ecological footprint they produce, airlines are taking the initiative in doing their part to mitigate the global climate crisis. As a responsible flyer, you can contribute to this movement by opting for airlines that run carbon offset programs, and opt to pay the small amount it takes for you to show you are a carbon-neutral traveler.