Is it actually possible to fly sustainably? If you're looking for a clear answer to this legitimate question, you've come to the right place! It's common knowledge that airplanes are by far our most climate-damaging means of transportation. And as long as there are no alternative, green fuels, it is impossible to get from A to B in an environmentally friendly way.
Nevertheless, there are of course a few things you can take to heart to make your air travel at least more sustainable in the future! Before, during and even after the flight, there are plenty of options available to you.
In this article, I would like to share with you the best tips for flying as sustainably as possible. Simply use them on your next trip by plane to make a real difference for the environment despite the flight. Let's go!
Advantages: Why should you fly as sustainably as possible?
First of all, I would like to say that I personally think it's great that you are reading this article. It shows that you have a healthy Environmental awareness and are basically ready, change your habits to protect nature.
Before we move on to the specific tips for sustainable flying, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly explain them to you once again, Why this is important at all and underpin why there is such a thing as a lasting sense of shame - the so-called "flight shame" - exists at all.
Here I have you the main advantages that you can benefit from by avoiding one or two flights - or flying more consciously:
- Protect the climate: About 4.9 percent of the global warming are due to greenhouse gas emissions from air traffic, according to studies.1 Your decision to fly more sustainably or not at all will therefore contribute to climate protection - and improve your own, ecological footprint.
- Appreciate the privilege: Around 90 percent of the world's population has never been on an airplane.2 Accordingly, conscious flying is also a statement of respect and a sense of responsibility for those who do not (or cannot) fly.
- Be a role model for other people and future generations: An environmentally conscious approach to flight offers shows that you are prepared to change your habits for the protection of the environment and the well-being of our children and grandchildren - and to accept restrictions in certain respects. You are also setting a good example and showing other people how to fly more consciously.
- Promoting more environmentally friendly air travel: Your demand for more sustainable flight options will ultimately accelerate the development and implementation of environmentally friendly technologies and fuels, making green flying increasingly likely in the future.
10 tips: How can I fly as sustainably as possible?
Unfortunately, many people have the impression that they have to give up flying completely in order to be more sustainable - but this is not necessary. We just need to realize that flying is not like riding the bus every day. The few times we do get on the plane, we should instead choose more consciously and see air travel for what it is: a privilege.
Now that you know the direct consequences of "frequent flying" and the advantages of flying consciously and as sustainably as possible, we can take the next step. Simply use the following tips to minimize the impact of your flights on the environment in the future.
1. only fly if it is unavoidable
Of course it is a laudable approachto simply not get on the plane at all in order to avoid the Counteract climate change. However, air travel cannot be avoided in all situations in our everyday lives. That's why you should heed the following basic rule: Fly only if there is no other way.
Short-haul flights are particularly avoidable! Even a domestic flight from Berlin to Munich emits around 298 kilograms of CO2 per person into the atmosphere. By comparison, a train journey over the same distance produces only 34.4 kilograms of CO2 per person and even takes you directly to the city center.3 The airport is usually on the outskirts of the city, so an additional trip by cab or train is necessary.
Flying sustainably also means think about the purpose of your next vacation trip. If necessary, simply look for alternative destinations. For example, if you are only planning a relaxing beach vacation or a hike in nature, then you can also do this wonderfully in Germany or Europe. The North Sea and Baltic Sea, numerous lakes and beautiful mountain landscapes are inviting. A flight would definitely be avoidable in such cases.
2. maintain an appropriate relationship between travel distance and travel duration
The longer your stay at your destination, the more worthwhile the flight. This statement is true - of course always under the premise that the purpose of the trip also represents added value for you and, in the best case, for our environment.
It simply makes no sensejust for a week's relaxing beach vacation halfway around the world to Bali and then back again. You can also spend the week relaxing on the German North Sea or Baltic coast without the hassle of traveling.
For longer journeys you should, if possible, use a Plan a stay of three weeks or longerso that the hour-long flight is really worth it - both financially and ecologically.
Notice: In the article about sustainable travel you can find more information on how to make your vacation environmentally friendly.
3. pack only what you really need
Every kilo counts! The heavier you and your luggage are, the greater the kerosene consumption of the aircraft - and the greater the environmental impact of your flight.
That's why, when it comes to sustainable air travel, you should really only the absolute essentials in your suitcase and hand luggage. Here it helps accordingly, in the spirit of the minimalist lifestyle to think and plan.
If you're going on vacation, for example, you don't need 21 T-shirts, ten sweaters and eight pairs of pants for three weeks. After all, some items can be worn several times and washed on site. So just plan ahead a little more preciselywhat should realistically be in your suitcase.
4. stay within your climate budget
According to the non-profit organization "atmosfair", every person is entitled to a Climate budget of around 2.3 tons of CO2 per year too. This value was set by the global community of states in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.4
In addition to emissions from flights, the personal climate budget The environmental impact of your Electricity, your Car trips or your Nutrition.
In my opinion, the climate budget is a Important point of referenceto better assess the impact of your own behavior and to educate our society. But of course you have to make sure that you stay within your budget.
Tip: Like to use this CO2 calculator of the Federal Environment Agencyto find out more about your carbon footprint and your personal potential for improvement. I also recommend the article about sustainable drivingif you are in your Not living without a car get by.
5. fly direct and economy class only
Flying is not just flying! The CO2 emissions per person are logically much higherwhen you board a private plane - but also when you fly first or business class. For example, a flight to Thailand and back in economy class consumes around 3.3 tons of CO2. In business class, the CO2 emissions per person are 6.3 tons and in first class even 9.8 tons.5
Why is that? Your seat takes up at least twice as much space in the more expensive flight classesas in economy class. If everyone flew economy, significantly more people could be transported, which would reduce the carbon footprint of all passengers.
It is also advisable to give preference to direct flights. Otherwise two airplanes take off and climb for you. During these moments, considerably more CO2 emissions are produced than during normal flight times.
6. choose your airline wisely
The environmental impact of a flight can vary significantly depending on the airline, despite the same travel distance. The aircraft you fly on plays a special role in this. So before you decide on a flight, you can check the respective Aircraft types simply put it in a CO2-calculator and compare.
But of course also other factors (e.g. average number of passengers per plane or the amount of subsidies) play their part in the actual sustainability of a flight. Just take a look at the atmosfair Airline Indexwhich classifies the ecological performance of airlines into efficiency classes and provides information on the currently most climate and environmentally friendly airlines.
7. avoid waste on the plane
If you can't avoid a flight, you can at least take the usual Disposable waste from tickets, plastic cups, cutlery and refreshment tissues. Plastic-free flying is really not that difficult!
The Ticket are now also available from all airlines as a digital PDF or on the airline's own app. Simply take your own Drinking bottle which you fill up beforehand at the tap after the check-in. (Here is my absolute recommendation!)
I know from my own experience, for example, that Turkish Airlines on its own flights Stainless steel cutlery to avoid waste. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case with all airlines. Just in case, you can, for example, buy a such spork* which can replace real disposable cutlery when traveling.
With a reusable Fabric napkin you'll be even more sustainable on the plane. You can even pre-cook your food and take it with you in a stainless steel bread tin - even in the event that there is no vegan/vegetarian options gives.
Tip: Do you already know the Zero Waste Basic Equipment? Let yourself be inspired and avoid a lot of waste with just a few things - whether on the plane or in your everyday life. And the article on the Zero Waste Travel on!
8. offset CO2 emissions
A short input into the atmosfair emissions calculator shows: a flight from Berlin to Mumbai emits around 1,488 kilograms of CO2 per person into the earth's atmosphere. As I can't normally cover this distance by bike or train, I compensate for the necessary flight by donating to the organization that supports the Money invested in climate protection projects.
Of course, it is more sustainable not to fly in the first place. But offsetting per capita emissions through donations to environmental organizations is definitely more environmentally friendly than doing nothing at all.
Notice: You can also apply to other organizations for your Offset CO2 emissions. However, make sure that the climate protection projects supported are certified with the strict CDM Gold Standard seal of approval. I explain this and other important tips for CO2 offsetting in the linked article.
9. behave as sustainably as possible at the destination
Try to ensure that flying is the only part of your trip that has a major impact on the environment. Where possible, give preference to cycling or public transport at your destination and consume locally and regionally. This applies to both food and other goods. And if you are looking for souvenirs, prefer sustainable souvenirs.
Just make sure that your ecological footprint remains as small as possible despite the flight. There are countless possibilities! Depending on where you are traveling to, you can also use a Organize own CleanUp, in order to fight against the Plastic waste in the environment to proceed.
Tip: Have a look at my CleanUp Diary in Indonesia - I was there for three months and supported or planned clean-up campaigns almost every day.
10. do not use flight as an excuse for less sustainability
"You're already flying anyway, so you don't need to pay any more attention to sustainability on site..." - Have you ever heard such sayings? Anyone who thinks this way is using the climate-damaging flight as a cheap excuse for not having to pay any more attention to sustainability.
And yet you should be more conscious and more sustainable behaviorwhen you get on the plane. In fact, every small, positive deed at your destination gives the flight another meaning. So always do your best - whether at home in your familiar surroundings or in new places you've just discovered.
Fly more consciously and sustainably, with simple means!
Of course, walking, cycling or taking the train is much more climate-friendly than flying. Use these more environmentally friendly alternatives whenever they are available.
You should only get on the plane if there is no other option. Just in case, take note of the tips I've given you today on how to travel as sustainably as possible despite the flight.
"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it."Robert Swan (more at Environmental protection quotes)
I very much hope that I have been able to help you with these tips for sustainable flying. Do you have any questions, suggestions or further tips? And how do you fly as environmentally friendly as possible yourself? I look forward to your comments.
PS: Global warming is the biggest of the Environmental problems of our time. But we still have many more challenges to overcome. Next, for example, find out more about the Overfishing the oceans and what consumers can do about it.
- D. S. Lee, D. W. Fahey, P. M. Forster; et al. (2009): Atmospheric Environment - Aviation and global climate change in the 21st century, available at https://elib.dlr.de/59761/1/lee.pdf. [02.02.2024]. ↩︎
- Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND): Reisen ohne Flugzeug: Mit dem Zug entspannt unterwegs (as of 19.01.2024), available at https://www.bund.net/bund-tipps/detail-tipps/tip/reisen-ohne-flugzeug-mit-dem-zug-entspannt-unterwegs. [02.02.2024]. ↩︎
- co2online gemeinnütztige Beratungsgesellschaft mbH: Train or plane? (as at: 16.08.2019), available at https://www.co2online.de/klima-schuetzen/mobilitaet/bahn-oder-flugzeug-der-vergleich. [02.02.2024]. ↩︎
- atmosfair gGmbH: Air travel and the personal climate budget, available at https://www.atmosfair.de/de/gruenreisen/persoenliches_klimabudget. [02.02.2024]. ↩︎
- F. Wirsing: Flying sustainably, available at https://letsearth.de/blog/nachhaltig-fliegen. [02.02.2024]. ↩︎