Air travel consumes vast amounts of fossil fuel every year. This fossil fuel burning stresses the environment in numerous ways, including contributing to global warming. In addition to global warming concerns, the chemicals that these planes emit exacerbate problems with smog and acid rain. The most pressing concern is carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas responsible for much of global warming. An individual flying from Los Angeles to New York and back produces approximately one ton of CO2 equivalent emissions. In addition to the environmental costs associated with fossil fuel consumption, other externalities exist. For example, the EPA estimates that 200-600 million gallons of waste water are produced during de-icing activities each year.
On top of its environmental impact, air travel also adds to the growing social injustice that exists between developed and lesser-developed countries. Most flights are occupied by citizens from developed countries, yet the problems that air travel creates are global—a classic case of the tragedy of the commons.
When buying air travel for business, few alternatives exist. The best way to reduce your environmental impact if air travel is necessary is to buy coach seats. Coach seats are more space efficient than business or first class. If planes were converted to coach-only seating, they could become 10-15% more efficient at transporting people. Consumers, through their purchasing habits, can help enact this change. In addition, buying carbon offsets will mitigate the impact your air travel has on the environment.
If you must travel by air, remember the following:
- Buy Carbon Offsets: It will mitigate the impact you have on the environment if air travel is necessary.
- Purchase Coach Seating: It is the most efficient seating arrangement for an airplane.
There are unfortunately no sustainable options in air travel. Consider the following suggestions:
- Avoid flying to meetings by using video or phone conferencing when possible.
- When traveling to the airport, use public transportation instead of driving or taking a taxi.
- Offset your carbon emissions when plane travel is necessary.