Reducing Your Carbon Emission While Traveling (And Why You Should Care)

We'd all love to pop down to Paris for a croissant, but at what price?
Dr. Oluwaseun Durojare
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Dr. Oluwaseun Durojare
Dr. Oluwaseun Durojaye is the MD/C.E.O of Damos Wellness Limited, a herbal product company. Oluwaseun is graced with several years of experience and he’s fully trained, certified and licensed by the Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board (Ministry of Health). He has an unquenchable passion for nature and alternative medicine, and his goal is to help people live and enjoy the best life possible.
Reducing Your Carbon Emission While Traveling (And Why You Should Care)

For us normal humans who care about the environment and don’t want to see it suffer, one area we should pay attention to, is the amount of carbon emissions we individually contribute while traveling for business or vacation. Now before you get your pitchforks out to get me, yes I know the celebs and “important” people contribute more emissions to our not-so-green spinning ball; what, with their private jets and exclusive parties all over the world, it’s hard to tell commoners like us to me mindful of how much water we use, or how much meat we eat.

But hey, we have to start somewhere and then work our way up. And a very good place to start, is travel emissions. Listen, I love to travel as much as the next guy — Paris today, Frankfurt tomorrow, Santorini the next, but our planet is dying, and it’s time to cut back on the air mileage and focus on more sustainable means.

So, what’s the big deal with carbon emissions?

Okay, let’s break it down real quick: your carbon footprint is the greenhouse gas emissions caused by your actions (yeah, like all those times you left your phone charger plugged in… guilty.) These GHGs trap heat in the atmosphere, leading us down the rocky road to climate change, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events. Ya know, the stuff nightmares are made of. In fact, transportation is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Within the transport sector, road vehicles are the largest source of emissions, followed by aviation, shipping, and rail. However, aviation is the fastest-growing source of emissions, and is expected to triple by 2050 if no action is taken.

Below are the impact of various means of travels, quantified:

  • 285 grams for a domestic flight
  • 158 grams for a long-haul flight
  • 104 grams for a car
  • 41 grams for a bus
  • 14 grams for a train

As you can see, flying is the most carbon-intensive way to travel, followed by driving. Taking public transport or using non-motorized modes, such as walking or cycling, are much lower-carbon alternatives.

To calculate your travel carbon footprint, you need to multiply the emission factor of each mode by the distance traveled. For example, if you fly from New York to London and back (a round trip of about 11,000 kilometers), you would emit about 3.1 metric tons of CO2. That’s more than the annual emissions of an average person in India. You can also use online tools to estimate your travel carbon footprint more accurately.

How can you reduce your travel carbon footprint?

There are many ways to reduce your travel carbon footprint, depending on your preferences, budget, and destination. Here are some tips to help you travel more sustainably:

  1. Opt for Public Transport or Shared Rides: Avoiding rental cars and using public transportation or shared rides helps reduce your carbon footprint. Buses, trams, and trains are often more carbon-efficient than planes and private cars.
  2. Choose a Nonstop Flight: Despite seeming longer, non-stop flights are usually more carbon-efficient because take-off and landing are when airplanes expend the most fuel. So, fewer takeoffs mean fewer carbon emissions.
  3. Fly Economy Class: All else being equal, the less space you take up on a plane, the lower your carbon footprints. On average, flying in business class creates three times more CO2 than economy, while first-class can create up to nine times.
  4. Pack Lightly: The heavier your luggage, the more fuel your vehicle needs to lug it around, whether that’s on a plane, train, or automobile. By bringing only what you need, you are directly reducing your travel emissions.
  5. Consider Train Travel: Especially for medium to long-distance journeys, train travel is a much more carbon-efficient alternative to flying. High-speed rail networks make it a perfectly practical option for many trips.
  6. Walk or Cycle at Your Destination: Instead of using local transport, consider walking or cycling. Many cities offer bike rentals which are a greener choice, and it gives you a different perspective to explore the local scenery.
  7. Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodation: Many hotels are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact. Look for accommodations with robust recycling programs, energy-efficient lighting, and water-saving measures.
  8. Offset Your Carbon Footprint: If you have to fly, consider offsetting your carbon emissions. Some airlines offer the chance to purchase carbon offsets at booking to neutralize the environmental impact of your flight.
  9. Eat Local and Plant-Based: Food miles make up a significant part of carbon emissions. Eating at local restaurants and choosing plant-based options can help you reduce your carbon footprint.
  10. Responsible Sightseeing: Choose tours and activities that have a minimal impact on the environment. Consider activities like hiking, kayaking, or visiting museums.

Remember, every little bit helps, and every single decision you make has an influence. While traveling is a wonderful way to discover new places, people, and cultures, it also comes with a responsibility to protect the environment and the climate. Reducing your travel carbon footprint is not only good for the planet, but also for yourself and others. It can help you save money, improve your health, and enrich your cultural experience. It can also help you show your respect and responsibility for the environment and the people who live in it.

Thank you for reading and happy travels!

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