carbon emissions and travel
SGE, Sustainability, Travel

6 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When Travelling


  • Carbon Emissions: Also known as greenhouse gas emissions, carbon emissions are the result of human activity from industries such as transportation and agriculture, among others.
  • Carbon Offsetting: Carbon offsetting is the act of reducing carbon emissions, often by increasing carbon storage through tree planting. 
  • Carbon Negative: Carbon negative refers to an activity that withdraws more carbon emissions from the environment than it puts in.

How to Minimize Your CO2 Footprint While Traveling

Firstly, we must understand that by reducing our CO2 emissions, we do not automatically become carbon neutral. The job is far from being done, but it is a good start. Any type of human activity that directly or indirectly involves burning hydrocarbon fuels will cause emissions of greenhouse gases which are harmful to the environment and to our health. Even simple activities such as shopping, using our phones, or simply switching on the lights will indirectly release carbon dioxide in the air, but some activities are far more harmful than others.

The latest 2022 study of the IEA (International Energy Agency) demonstrates that transportation itself contributed one-quarter of the total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions on the globe, with 1.04 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted only from aviation. Since 2000, commercial passenger flight activity has grown by 5% per year, while CO2 emissions have doubled since then.

Sure, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, CO2 emissions have dropped a little and had unexpected effects on the atmosphere, but with the rising demand of global air travel, emission forecasts for 2022 aren’t looking so great. 

Mile for mile, flying is the most damaging travel option for the climate, and it begs the question, is there a sustainable way to fly, and what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint when travelling abroad?

sustainable travel via train6 Tips to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Flying

  1. Consider alternative ways to travel

Although it might be difficult when planning an overseas trip, travelling by train or bus is a lot more environmentally friendly option than flying. This is because both trains and buses use less fuel and can release up to 75% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

  1.  Choose an eco-friendly airline to travel with

More and more airlines are investing in greener ways to operate their businesses by running sustainable programmes and investing in technologies to make flying less harmful to the environment. 

Next time you’re planning a trip, why not consider a carrier that uses renewable biofuels which can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%. Some eco-friendly airlines operating in the UK include companies such as:

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • British Airways
  • EasyJet

Be sure to do your own research before booking because things may change. 

  1. Take a direct flight

Avoiding flights with stopovers is also a good way to reduce your carbon footprint when travelling. This is because connecting flights often make diversions, adding up extra air miles, and during multiple take-offs, planes release a larger amount of CO2 into the air. 

  1. Pack lighter and opt for carry-on

It’s no brainer that lighter baggage will reduce your carbon footprint, but it doesn’t end there. Even if they weigh the same, a carry-on will always be a more sustainable option versus checked-in luggage. It makes sense if you think about all the extra processes of getting your bags into the plane.

  1. Avoid business class

Apart from being more cost-effective, flying on economy is also more sustainable compared to flying on business class. It’s simple maths. Since economy class carries more people in less space, each and every individual’s carbon footprint will be reduced.

  1. Offset ON

Carbon offsetting is one of the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint, however, it should not be used as a license to pollute the environment. It’s important to acknowledge that carbon offsetting cannot act quickly enough to resolve climate issues – only reductions can.

Carbon offsetting is a process of compensating for CO2 emissions arising from human activities, such as flying. The goal is to bring our carbon footprint down to zero by investing in programs that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or increase the world’s carbon dioxide storage. Examples of carbon offsetting projects are renewable energy sourcing, energy-efficiency improvements, tree planting activities, or the destruction of greenhouse gases.

How To Carbon Offset:

Step 1 – Measure

Find out your impact on the climate using simple tools such as WWF’s free carbon footprint calculator. It takes less than 5 minutes to complete and it will give you an estimated sum of your yearly CO2 emissions.

Step 2 – Reduce

We’ve already mentioned some of our best tips to reduce your carbon footprint when travelling abroad, but cutting down your emissions extends into different dimensions of daily living. You can lower your emissions with simple practicalities at home, when shopping, and even with your diet.

Step 3 – Choose a trusted offset project

When buying a plane ticket, you’ve probably come across various prompts to carbon offset your journey, but instead of using airlines’ schemes, which they often use as a mitigation deterrence instead of urgent innovation, those who want to offset their carbon emissions should turn to non-profit organisations. Our favourite ones are Atmosfair, the Gold Standard, and Verra, but there are plenty of other NGOs who are dedicated to reducing carbon emissions effectively.

Start Travelling More Sustainably Today

As transport is one of the main sources of air pollution, its effects on our health and environment are concerning. Increasing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, higher rates of premature adult deaths, damage to the planet’s biodiversity, and rapid climate change are just some examples of the impacts of air pollution. By shifting our mindset and taking simple, daily actions to reduce our carbon emissions, we can improve air quality and bestow a cleaner, prosperous place upon future generations. Remember, change begins with you.