Green Flights – Are Eco-Friendly Flights Possible?

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Green Flights – Look in any airport and you’ll find a world that doesn’t seem to care about pollution.

Huge airliners cough and splutter fumes, baggage cars emit like a power plant, and the tarmac placed on runways scythes the countryside of its natural charm with nary a shrug of the shoulder.

It doesn’t make you feel particularly good about flying.

Especially with the current global mess.

Do you really want to feel like you’re adding to that smoke and smog by booking a flight?

Well, although planes are still hotbeds of pollution, there are ways to reduce the emissions you’re using before and during a flight.

As environmentally-conscious travelers, we are always trying to do things as green as we can.

This includes finding green flights.

As what usually happens when we mention anything related to airplanes, we get some criticism.

“Aren’t you green?”

“Don’t you care about the environment?”

“Flying is terrible.”

Yes, we agree that planes are the worst mode of transportation when it comes to their environmental impact.

In fact we’ve written a lot about this including articles about airplane cabin air, Principles for Choosing Green Transportation, and a Guide to Carbon Offsets.

So, this begs the question, are there green flights?
Green Flightsphoto credit: Lara604

Green flights don’t exist

Sadly, there aren’t.

At least not right now.

Perhaps in the future there will be green flights.

It would be great to be able to fly all over the world without having a major impact on the environment.

Right now though, there’s no such thing as green flights.

However, there are lots of things you can do to minimize your impact to make it a greener flight than it would have been otherwise.

How to fly green as possible and feel good about it!

Tips to make your flights more eco friendly:

Take a Nonstop Flight

When you take a nonstop flight you’re using less fuel and thus there are fewer carbon offsets – this all leads to greener flights.

Check out our posts about the best search engines for nonstop flights and our post about how non-stop flights have up to 50% less carbon offsets.

Use Electronic Tickets

When you use a completely electronic ticket — for example, on your PDA/Smart phone, you’re getting rid of all paper waste.

Another bonus: You won’t have to worry about losing your ticket.

Search for Tickets by Searching for Green Travel

So many travel companies now offer a Green Travel section on their website.

Click there first to optimize your green travel experience.

Search Green Travel when researching green flights, lodging, transportation, dining, and more.

Bring a Water Bottle

Don’t buy bottled water before boarding the plane.

To have green flights we must stop drinking bottled water.

While on the plane, politely refuse the drink which will be served in a plastic cup and most likely, not recycled.

Bring your own water bottle, an empty one, to the airport.

Once you are through security, fill it up at a water fountain, and enjoy it before and during your flight.

Looking for a new one?

Check out our smackdown of stainless steel water bottles to help you choose the best one.
green flights

Get a Greeting

Imagine how much you’re polluting in your hunt for a parking spot.

You’ll traipse up and down and around and around car lots just to find a place near your terminal, and you’ll have wasted gallons of fuel in the process.

But is there an alternative? Indeed there is – try meet and greet car parking, and you’ll be able to park right at the entrance of your terminal.

From there, your vehicle will be taken to a secure location for the duration of your trip.

You’ll have minimized your carbon footprint – and save time as well.

Fly Green – Don’t Compute

You might think you need a world of entertainment at your fingertips for your flight.

But the truth is, most of your devices are wasting more energy than you realize.

For short haul flights, why not bring a book.

Preferably made from recycled paper or from the library.

Thus saving the best kind of ‘green’… money!)

Or simply have a power nap?

Pick the Right Flight

The government regularly recommends using buses instead of your car.

The fewer cars are on the road, the safer the environment.

The same logic can be applied to planes.

When you’re trying to book a flight, make sure the majority of its seats are filled.

After all, a full plane is being used to its optimal capacity.

In addition to this, make sure you don’t book a flight requiring stopovers or layovers.

The more planes you have to use, the more pollution you’re seeping into the environment.

Check Your Airport’s Record:

You might not realize it, but eco-airports do exist.

Dotted around the globe are airports using solar panels, energy saving measures and other progressive tricks to offset pollution.

If you’re really serious about saving the planet, track down the greenest airports you can before you book your trip.

Travel Green On Your Next Vacation to Reduce Impact
Find Cheap Airline Tickets Cheat Sheet

What is your secret to finding green flights?

How do you make your trips more environmentally-friendly?

Work to choose green air travel to lessen your impact.

Airplane Cabin Air: Is it Toxic?

You may have read reports of airplane cabin air or been on a flight and wondered what exactly are you breathing in?

In addition to thinking about the passengers on-board and whether or not they are sick, etc. many people wonder, “Is airplane cabin air toxic?”

Some people experience nausea, headaches, memory loss, neurological illness, paralysis… from flying.

Indeed.

When you’re on a plane, at times you may be breathing in toxic fumes from the cabin air.

According to the Daily Mail, half of the air in your plane “comes from the blisteringly hot heart of its engines… [and] once it has been cooled down, that air, together with any toxins it might have picked up along the way, passes straight into the aircraft cabin totally unfiltered.”

And this has been happening since 1962, when airlines realized it was cheaper to recycle engine air than to make air from the outside breathable.

And the unsafe air doesn’t just affect passengers.

A Telegraph article told the story of a Swedish pilot and co-pilot who were made so ill by cabin air, they were nearly paralyzed while flying.

Fortunately, they donned their oxygen masks just in time and safely landed the plane.

The recycled (but not clean) cabin air “can cause drowsiness, headaches, flu-like symptoms and nausea.

The kind of symptoms that Dr Nicola Hembry, a specialist in environmental medicine, says passengers may wrongly assume have been picked up from another passenger.”

The worst part about this?

Governments and airlines have known about problems with cabin air quality for a long time and the technology for clean air is available, but it’s expensive.

So airlines haven’t done anything about it yet.

News outlets have been reporting on the problem for years.

In December of 2000, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on safety issues with cabin air and in June of 2007, the New Scientist wrote about “aerotoxic syndrome” in pilots.

But there’s hope yet – the Business Traveler reported last week that the UK government has plans to take action around cabin air quality and it seems likely that other countries will follow.

photo credit: kla4067

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like it will happen any time soon.

My first thought after reading all of this? “So I’m not crazy, after all.”

I experienced symptoms on a plane before.

Picture it: November 2005, Moscow’s Sheremtyevo airport.

Elizabeth and I had spent the last 12 hours camped out on the airport floor, making friends with a middle-aged Russian couple while their 7-year-old daughter read a book nearby.

We worked our way through the language barrier and bonded over our delayed trip to Egypt in a babble-like blend of Russian, English, French, and German.

Our plane had been delayed by technical problems, and when we finally boarded via a spiral staircase that took us through the luggage compartment, I could see why.

The ancient Aeroflot Soviet passenger plane was humongous and looked like it hadn’t been worked on since the Cold War.

We sat on the runway for close to an hour and soon after the plane took off, I began to feel sick to my stomach.

This was really the first time I thought about airplane cabin air.

I was completely fine before boarding the plane; I ate and drank plenty of water.

There was nothing wrong with me until I sat on that plane awhile.

The air in the plane smelled awful and toxic and each breath brought on another wave of nausea.

I fell into an uncomfortable half-sleep, kept awake by the sickness.

After the eight hour flight, we arrived safely but I will always question airplane cabin air after that experience.

Green Air Travel: 8 Tips for Making Your Air Travel Greener

Let’s face it flying is just plain bad for the environment.

But there are plenty of ways to strive for green air travel.

Our Top 8 Tips for Green Air Travel

Take a Non-Stop Flight

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again.

When you take a non-stop flight there are fewer carbon emissions.

Search for Tickets Using Search Green Travel

Bring a Snack

Not only do you save a few bucks, but by packing a snack in a small reusable container you’re reducing waste.

Plus, you’ll likely find a reason to reuse your container while traveling to cut down on more waste.

Bring a Water Bottle

Approximately 80% of plastic bottles end up in landfills.

The best thing you can do is bring a stainless steel water bottle.

Use Electronic Tickets

Electronic tickets cut down on paper waste.

Plus they’re convenient.

Pack Light

When you take less stuff, less fuel is needed to move it.

We have a great guide to packing light, check it out.

Take Public Transportation to and from the Airport

Sure, taking a cab or driving your car is easy, but to make your air travel greener take public transportation.

Don’t Eat at Airport Food Courts

Have you ever noticed that almost all airport restaurants use disposable plates, napkins, silverware, etc?

Avoid the food courts and you’ll avoid excess trash.

 

Other alternatives to flying

Even better than flying is to stay closer to home or opt to drive instead of fly.

Here are some ideas for your next vacation.

Perhaps this time you want it to be a green vacation?

Here are some of the best green vacation ideas we’ve come across.

Camp

Camping, provided you practice leave-no-trace camping, is a one of the best green vacations.

It’s fun by yourself or with friends and family.

Be sure to stay on trails and in designated camp sites.

Look for signs and obey rules and regulations the camp area has.

Rent an RV

I’ve never done this (yet) but, renting an RV and driving across the country makes for a great green vacation.

While RVs may get terrible gas mileage, your vacation will make up for this because you’re not flying nor are you using resources such as electricity at a hotel.

Just make sure it’s a small RV.

Read and Relax Vacation

Go somewhere closer to home (via car, train, or bus) and spend your entire trip reading and relaxing.

Not only is this rejuvenating but it has a low impact on the environment, especially if you check out your books from the library!

Visit State and National Parks

There are state/national parks across the world.

Visit them to support their conservation efforts.

Visit Family and Friends

When you visit family and friends on vacation you’re sharing resources and thus more likely to be green.

Plus, you’ll get the insider’s scoop on the destination you’re visiting.

Train to Anywhere

Taking an overnight train is an incredible experience and it makes for a very green vacation.

Amtrak (in the US) has more options than you might think.

Looking for an ultimate train ride?

Check out the Trans-Siberian.

Fair warning: 7 days on a train is a very, very long time.

There are always ways to make a vacation more green.

Involve your partner or family in the process and make it more fun.

And if you do fly, try to pick an eco-friendly airline and strive for green flights.

Green air travel is still a bit of an oxymoron, but you can take a few easy steps to be a more responsible traveler when flying by plane.

7 thoughts on “Green Flights – Are Eco-Friendly Flights Possible?”

  1. Hi Elizabeth, I love reading your posts and I totally agree with you about flying but as you stated some airlines are slowly changing. This month American Airlines started testing their Paris-Miami flight utilizing what they call NextGen technology. Through these type of programs AA has a goal to save 120 million gallons of jet fuel and also reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 billion pounds this year alone. Agreed, our environment would be better if we all biked but sometimes that is just not practical. So, keeping reality in check I say “Hats off to American Airlines” and hope other airlines join them ASAP. The link from Rueters is
    Michelle

  2. Has anyone successfully brought a reusable bottle on a plane? I’d like to check to make sure an empty bottle is permitted through security before risking having it confiscated. I know they take away plastic ones filled or empty (unless this has changed recently).

    Once you take it through security do you just refill it in the airplane bathroom?

    -Wendy

  3. @ Wendy — Yes, I’ve successfully brought a reusable bottle on a plane (through security) every time I’ve traveled. (Which is a lot). Occasionally security will ask to look inside the bottle, and even if you’ve accidentally left water in it (happened to me a few times) you can just dump out the water in the trash can and still take the bottle through.

  4. It really is a shame that flying is so bad for the environment. For traveling across continents though, nothing even comes close the covenience and price. Elevate Destinations is a sustainable travel company that buys carbon offsets for all of their trips, which I think is the best option when traveling a huge distance.

    As far as water bottles, I completely agree. I bring my sigg with me everywhere, including on flights and have never had a problem. I’ve even brought it through security completely filled with water and no one so much as blinked an eye.

  5. @Emma – I agree that carbon offsets can be a good option for traveling a huge distance. Watch for our best carbon offets companies post — coming soon!

  6. There is one way everyone can contribute towards green flying..buy your duty free on arrival check before you fly at Save weight, time fuel and hassle!

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