Monday, August 18, 2008

Fly and Still Go Green?

Environmental groups say people need to fly less. Sites like Carbon Responsible can calculate the footprint of your trip, plus show you how long it takes to make the equivalent carbon saving by cutting down on car journeys or using low-energy light bulbs. My recent flight from Florida to Arizona has the same impact as driving a Toyota Camry for one year. What's a globe trotter to do?

Some of us use carbon offsetting to ease our conscience, avoiding, of course, the suspect services. Green gurus insist that's not enough.

If business and travel lovers like myself won't give up flying, the least we can do is ease the impact of flying in these ways:

1. Book daytime flights. Flying at night or in the winter is more environmentally damaging. The reasons are complex and to do with condensation trails trapping heat at night, but reflecting it away from the earth in the day. Researchers found that, although night flights only account for 25% of air traffic, they contribute 60% to 80% of the global warming caused by flying.

2. Travel in a lighter plane. The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, for example, is made from lightweight plastic, which supposedly makes it 20% more fuel efficient.

3. Plan side trips by rail or ferry instead of short, commuter flights.

4. Stay in green accommodations. Avoid ones that greenwash. Look for ones that do more than put out recycling bins and switched to fluorescent light bulbs. Ask specific questions about what the lodging does to conserve energy and water and minimize waste. Don't just accept that the use of the word green means they have sustainable practices. The more people who ask, the more hospitality management will listen.

"Already the word 'eco' has lost all power and meaning,' says Guyonne James, senior projects manager at Tourism Concern, a UK charity which campaigns against exploitation. 'If a bed-and-breakfast has a garden, they'll call it an eco-lodge. There has been such a proliferation of claims and green labels that as a tourist you really have no idea what's going on."

5. If you spot someone with bad practices, write a review on

6. Take your habits from home on the road. Recycle, turn off lights, take public transportation, bring your own water bottle and maybe even your coffee mug. Use organic sunscreen to limit contamination at beaches and swimming holes.

For easygoing green travel tips, check this list or add your suggestions here with a comment.

Photo by Greg Lepera, St. Augustine, FL.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

You can also use Search Green Travel to book your flight which allows you to search for cheap tickets and the advertising revenue (which adds up) goes to environmental charity.