Flying Light in 2020

Written by Ali Fisher

We are increasingly concerned about, and mindful of, our environmental footprint on the planet. But are enough of us considering our wing-print in the skies?

Burpham is just 20 miles away from the World’s 7th busiest airport,
carrying 78 million passengers every year i. Whilst air travel might account for only 3% of European greenhouse gas emissions ii, here are a few reasons you might want to think about whether you can fly lighter this year:

  • If global aviation was a country,
  • it would rank amongst the 10 most polluting nations.iii
  • UK CO2 emissions from aviation have doubled over the last 20-25 years and are predicted to continue to grow.iv
  • One transatlantic flight can create the same carbon footprint as an average year of driving.v
  • Avoiding one long-haul flight can save more emissions than switching to green energy or eating a plant-based diet.vi (See diagram below)
  • More Brits flew abroad in 2018 than any other nationality, flying 126.2m times.vii

So, with Heathrow & Gatwick right on our doorstep, what can we do
to fly lighter in 2020?

Fly less

Join the 20% of the public who say they have already reduced the number of flights they take because of climate concerns.viii

Business connections:
If you fly with work, can you switch any flights for remote connections? Tech is absolutely our friend here. 

Staycations:
Perhaps your next holiday could be UK based? Last summer saw a 13% increase in the number of Brits booking hotels at home.ix Or be part of
the 21 million UK camping & caravanning trips predicted for 2020, with Brits choosing to ‘get away from it all’, ‘connect with nature’ and disconnect from tech.x Fancy a few nights away in a bell tent, pod or a yurt? There are plenty of top notch camping and glamping sites right here in our beautiful Surrey.

Eurostar:
Their high speed trains emit up to 90% less carbon London to Paris compared to flying and produce less carbon per passenger than individual car journeys from central London to Heathrow!xi (See diagram below)

Hashtag your tagskryt:
If you are one of the groovy people taking the time to enjoy the lesser emission emitting train travel, then share your ‘train brag’ with others and #tagskryt on social media. Let’s swap out flight shame and swap in train pride. 

Ask for climate perks:
Ask your employer to sign up to Climate Perks, offering additional holiday days to enable ‘slow’ travel as an alternative to flying. 

Fly smarter

Off-setting:
This is an area of heated debate as it’s still keeping planes and pollution in the air. But if you are flying, consider off-setting to support other means of fighting the climate crisis such as tree planting.

At the moment only 1% of passengers choose to offset but this has grown 140-fold in ten years and offset 430m tonnes of emissions.xii 

Fly direct:
If you do fly, try and go direct wherever possible. According to a 2010 NASA report, 25% of airplane emissions come from taxiing, take-off and landing.xiii

Fly economy:
The more space efficient we are when we fly, the fewer planes we need in the air. Business class carries around triple the carbon sins of economy and First class four times.xiv 

Consider off-setting to support other means of fighting the climate crisis such as tree planting. At the moment only 1% of passengers choose to offset.

Share your flygskam:
If you already feel ‘flygskam’ or ‘flight shame’ – an expression born in Greta Thunberg’s native Sweden – share it with others. A problem shared is a problem halved and it might inspire others to fly lighter this year.

Be a conscious consumer:
If you are flying, ask your airline what they are doing to combat the climate emergency. Customers have power – look at the changes we have seen in the last 2 years in reducing single-use plastics.

What are the airlines doing to combat their growing carbon footprint?

Design:
Airlines have been investing in light-weighting and stream-lining designs
to reduce fuel consumption, cutting an estimated 1-2% of emissions a year.xv

Sustainable aviation fuel:
IAG, parent company to British Airways, recently announced an investment of $400m in developing more sustainable aviation fuels.xvi

Electric & hybrids:
Rolls-Royce, Airbus & Siemens partnered to develop the E-Fan X fully electric two-seater plane which flew across the English Channel in 2015. Their target is to have zero CO2 emission aircraft by the early 2030s for domestic and short-haul flights.xvii

Off-setting:
Some airlines are investing in off-setting. It doesn’t take the problem away but it is a positive interim step. Easyjet announced at the end of 2019 that they would be investing £25m annually in carbon offsets.

So where does that leave us?

The UK is committed to net zero greenhouse gases by 2050. Yet in aviation, technological improvements are creating just 1% annual carbon savings as the industry continues to grow at 4-5% a year. So everything we can do to fly less and fly smarter this year should set us up for a lighter wing print and a lot less flygskam!

Sources:
i Christine Bednarz/National Geographic (10/2018) The 10 busiest airports in the world. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/lists/transportation/worlds-busiest-airports-things-to-do-layover/
ii & iii European Commission. Reducing emissions from aviation. https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport/aviation_en
iv Stuart Clark/The Guardian (11/2019) Can we have net zero emissions and still fly? https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/nov/24/can-we-fly-and-have-net-zero-emissions-air-industry-e-fan-x-rolls-royce-engines-kerosine-carbon-2050
v Duncan Clark/The Guardian (9/2010) The surprisingly complex truth about planes and climate change. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/sep/09/carbon-emissions-planes-shipping
vi Signe Dean/Science Alert (7/2018. There’s one simple thing you should do if you really want to reduce your carbon footprint. https://www.sciencealert.com/the-best-ways-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint-environment-science-less-children
vii Stuart Clark/The Guardian (11/2019) Can we have net zero emissions and still fly? https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/nov/24/can-we-fly-and-have-net-zero-emissions-air-industry-e-fan-x-rolls-royce-engines-kerosine-carbon-2050
viii Edie (11/2019) From plastics to rewilding: How Eurostar is gaining a competitive edge in the era of eco-travel. https://www.edie.net/library/From-plastics-to-rewilding–How-Eurostar-is-gaining-a-competitive-edge-in-the-era-of-eco-travel/6947
ix Phil Davies/Travel Weekly (3/2019. Summer staycation searches and bookings ‘up by a third’. http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/articles/327837/summer-staycation-seaches-and-bookings-up-by-a-third
x International Glamping Business (1/2017) Glamping more popular than ever in the UK. https://www.glampingbusiness.com/2017/01/06/glamping-popular-ever-uk/
xi Edie (11/2019) From plastics to rewilding: How Eurostar is gaining a competitive edge in the era of eco-travel. https://www.edie.net/library/From-plastics-to-rewilding–How-Eurostar-is-gaining-a-competitive-edge-in-the-era-of-eco-travel/6947
xii John Vidal/The Guardian (8/2019) Offsetting carbon emissions: ‘It has proved a minefield.’ https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/aug/02/offsetting-carbon-emissions-how-to-travel-options
xiii Tatiana Schlossberg/The New York Times (7/2017) Flying is bad for the planet. You can help make it better. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/27/climate/airplane-pollution-global-warming.html
xiv BBC News (8/2019) Climate change: Should you fly, drive or take the train? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49349566
xv Helen Coffey/The Independent (6/2019) Flygskam: What is the flight-shaming enivornmental
movement that’s sweeping Europe?
https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/flygskam-anti-flying-flight-shaming-sweden-greta-thornberg-environment-air-travel-train-brag-a8945196.html
xvi International Airlines Group (10/2019) IAG backs net zero emissions by 2050. https://www.iairgroup.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/newsroom-listing/2019/net-zero-emissions
xvii Stuart Clark/ The Guardian (11/2019) Can we have net zero emissions and still fly? https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/nov/24/can-we-fly-and-have-net-zero-emissions-air-industry-e-fan-x-rolls-royce-engines-kerosine-carbon-2050

 

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