How to travel in an environmentally-friendly way

by Rebecca Macfie / 22 December, 2017

Taking a holiday at home is better for the planet than cruising on a ship powered by bunker fuel. Photo/Getty Images

Canadian climate scientist Brett Favaro offers a few tips to reduce your carbon footprint when you travel – first, stay off those cruises. 

From a climate change perspective, “anything you can do to keep yourself out of a plane will generally be a good decision”, writes Canadian climate scientist Brett Favaro in his 2017 book The Carbon Code. “Flight is a luxury. Every time we travel by air, we are accountable for a large amount of carbon pollution. Climate justice demands that we examine this carefully.”

Favaro offers a range of tips to help wean us off the frequent-flying habit.

  • Measure your movements: Use a carbon calculator to work out the carbon cost of your travel.
  • Don’t go: Rather than starting from the default position that a given flight is necessary, start from the assumption that it is not, and only take the trip when you have established that it is essential.
  • Get downgraded: Don’t fly in first class or business class. Because those passengers take up more space on the plane, their carbon footprint is much higher than that of an economy-class seat.
  • Virtually there: Instead of flying to meetings, try alternatives such as videoconferencing, Skype or Google Hangouts.
  • Hit the road: If you do need to be there, consider whether there is an alternative to flying. If three or four of you need to travel, it might be better to share a car journey than for everyone to fly.
  • Two-for-one: Try to achieve more than one goal on any trip.
  • Pay it forward: When you do fly, offset the emissions with credits that represent genuine, permanent carbon reduction.
  • Think local: Consider a staycation rather than a distant destination, or at least consider holidaying somewhere closer to home.
  • Sea no evil: Don’t be tempted to replace flying somewhere for your holiday with an ocean cruise. “Cruise liners are usually powered by bunker fuel, which is one of the dirtiest forms of fuel,” says Favaro. “They emit large volumes of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and carbon dioxide. It takes a lot of energy to move a floating city through water, and even if the boat is full of thousands of passengers, this translates to a lot of CO2 per person.”

THE CARBON CODE: HOW YOU CAN BECOME A CLIMATE CHANGE HERO, by Brett Favaro (Johns Hopkins University Press)

This article was first published in the November 4, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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