Air travel makes up almost 50% of my carbon footprint, which makes it the place to start. I looked at a few factors to consider
- Which airlines I fly and what is their strategy and policy on climate change
- Airlines’ carbon offset programs
- Reducing overall air travel
Interestingly, the output of CO2 per passenger mile varies by airline. This BBC story outlines the expected 2020 output for some of the major airlines, and how it compares to 2017. Picking your airlines more often depends on costs, stop-overs, and whether you will get “points”. Differences in their climate impact should also be a factor. The major airlines I fly are JetBlue and American Airlines, both fair OK, relative to their peers.
Further reviewing what the airlines say, JetBlue outlines its sustainability initiatives here. A few highlights are encouraging: (1) they have reduced their carbons emissions in the last 3 years (2) the outline what reductions they have achieved, (3) what goals they have in place, (4) in 2019 JetBlue ran a program to pay for offsets for all their passengers who flew during June. Compare that to American Airlines which outlined what they have done, and how the industry as a whole needs to act, versus specific goals and results they have achieved. Seemed more like hand waving and marketing than commitment.
Almost all of my air travel is for work ,which makes it more difficult to reduce my overall travel. While reducing overall output has to be the goal, the next best thing is to reduce the impact. Almost all the major airlines have carbon offset programs. “The Points Guys” has a fantastic write up of the various airlines and their carbon offset programs. For an good introduction to carbon offset programs you can read “6 Questions About Carbon Offsets, Answered” from the Washington Post. Which programs to use, and the actual steps you take will vary on how much you travel, what different airlines you use, and how much time you have to spend. I will cover these details in a post soon.
Reducing overall airline travel will depend on how much is for work versus pleasure. As my kids grew up we tended to do local vacations within a drive from home. The challenge for me is work. Most of my colleagues and customers are spread across the North America and Europe and face time is important. However, I have adopted a few habits to reduce overall travel. The obvious choice is to simply eliminate the trip. With better online video meetings and collaboration tools, this is definitely an option. The second habit is to combine trips. This past week, I was in Atlanta, so extended my stay day to visit a customer. This eliminated a separate trip. For the next few months, I plan to log my business trips, including the miles for carbon credits, capture whether I really need to make the trip and if trips could be combined.
What are the other options you use to reduce or offset your airline carbon impact?