Even the most fuel-efficient aircraft emit pollutants, and aviation accounts for 2.4% of global carbon pollution. Sustainability in aviation is a hot topic now, and many high-profile airline companies are getting in on the action. For example, EasyJet launched an initiative to offset the carbon emissions of their flights by planting trees.
In addition, Boeing has been showing off its ecoDemostrator 777, showcasing numerous environmentally friendly tech like the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Here is a quick roundup of the opportunities the aviation community (and we!) can seize upon to make flight more sustainable.
With that said, here are six ideas to improve sustainability.
Ditch Single-Use Plastics During Flights
Lighter airframes and interior equipment can do wonders for fuel efficiency. However, people often need to remember that good environmental stewardship covers many of the same things at 30,000 feet as it does on the ground.
Since airlines often only provide authentic glasses to first-class passengers, offering refillable water bottles seems a better solution than plastic cups on flights. Moreover, sustainable cutlery and food packaging, whether it's biodegradable or reusable, would be a huge help. Oh, and the single-use plastic wrapping around pillows and blankets must go.
Fortunately, the number of carriers advertising zero-waste flights is increasing.
Develop Hybrid and Electric Planes for Short Flights
Startups, frequently associated with huge aviation firms, are actively working on hybrid or fully electric short-haul flights. Aviation is becoming electrified in the same way as vehicles - but slowly. In the future, hybrid and electric aircraft might replace "normal" planes for short-haul travel.
The question is: How quickly? And another follow-up: Is an electric aircraft really sustainable? Unfortunately, the answers are not definitive. Electrification is occurring, albeit at a sluggish rate. And planes will only be genuinely sustainable if their batteries are recharged using renewable energy. Finally, when the batteries' life cycles end, they need to be changed. And improper battery disposal is awful for the environment.
Take Advantage of Carbon Offset Programs
You can use numerous websites as a passenger to offset your personal carbon footprint. The effort by the WWF is one example of many. The main idea of these programs is that the decrease in your CO2 release is indirect - you purchase credits to offset them through funding sustainable research. Klima is an app that does just that.
Eliminate Inefficient Routes
To preserve their landing and departure priority and meet contractual obligations, some airlines prefer flying empty aircraft on "ghost flights." That is a massive waste! Technology can significantly reduce routes by collecting data on customer travel habits and convincing a carrier that they should book a given trip five times per week instead of seven during its slow season.
Consider a 10:15 a.m. flight from Paris to Boston that is never wholly booked during the autumn yet remains active seven days a week. Data streams may encourage the airline to plan the trip just five times to ensure it always goes at full capacity.
Adopt Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Biofuels derived from wastewater sludge, agricultural products, and biofuel crops may lower aviation's CO2 emissions by up to 80%. However, the Renewable Energy European Directive requires biofuel producers to abandon food-based technologies and concentrate only on waste products.
As shown by the Boeing 777 ecoDemonstrator, biofuel might be a dependable fuel source even for long-distance flights; nevertheless, considerably more effort and incentives are required to lower sustainable aviation fuel's price per gallon.
Seek Alternative Transportation
To minimize aircraft emissions, it seems natural to seek alternate modes of transportation. However, for airline companies, it doesn't seem self-evident.
Both the continental United States and Europe are excellent examples. Fast and efficient railways link most major cities in these areas, eliminating the need to fly. Of course, if you arrive in a big airport hub city, you may need to transfer to another short aircraft to get to your destination. Airline companies should work with other modes of transportation to lessen their total impact on the environment.
For some perspective, flightradar24.com tracked over 217,000 flights worldwide on May 18, 2022. So lowering demand just a bit couldn't possibly be a bad thing.
- Take it Local – When you plan to travel, ensure you use as many local companies as possible for transportation and accommodation. Feel free to ask questions about whether the hotel uses single-use plastics or whether the bus company maintains equitable employment practices.
- Pick the Right Airline – Not every sustainability initiative is created equal. Make sure you research which airlines have done the most to preserve the planet and reduce global warming. The more sustainable they are, the more sustainable you will be when you travel.
- Embrace Eco-Tourism – Seeing the Taj Mahal and the Colosseum can be memorable, but sometimes for the wrong reasons. Overcrowding and long lines detract from the experience. Instead, go off the beaten path and bring your attention (and economic power) to bear on underserved destinations with a lot to offer the discerning traveler.