How To Reduce Your CO2 Emissions Whilst Travelling

First of all, this isn’t supposed to be a preachy post. We all love to travel and we don’t plan to stop. I think that cultural exchange helps us to understand and respect others cultures. The fact of the matter is though, that for me personally, travel generates the biggest portion of my CO2 and that is the reason I want to examine this topic.

Prof Stephen Hawkins recently predicted that the earth only has around 600 years left, if we continue down the path we are on. He said that either global warming or over-population would be the most likely cause of its end. So for me personally, this post is a way of me thinking through my own CO2 output which is currently 7 tons per year. I’m asking myself how I can get it down to 5 tons per year – the recommended target – and ways this can be done without sacrificing travel.

Head over to the WWF Footprint Calculator if you’d like to understand the estimated amount you are producing. If you aren’t UK based then estimate your flight distances, as if you were in the UK. It’s a great tool.

Take fewer but longer trips.

I know weekend breaks can be a very temping prospect throughout the year but the facts are taking one or two longer, slower trips per year is a more CO2 efficient way to travel. You will use less flights this way and that is the biggest cause of CO2 for most travellers.

Fly economy.

Recently we’ve seen the start of a boom in economical travel with some famous faces flying the flag. Prince William and Madonna have both been spotted in the economy cabins of planes recently, as luxury travel on flights is much less efficient. The more people that can fit on a plane, the more CO2 efficient it is.

Madonna Economy
Ma-conomy (credit: Facebook)

Eat local.

Shipping food around the world is a high contributor towards CO2 production. Whenever you are travelling somewhere, then eating the local food and produce will reduce the amount that is shipped in from around the world. This should be a no-brainer for any traveller, as you are there to sample their culture and eating local is one of the best ways to do that. Also, using a water filter rather than bottled water will help too. I need to get me one of those. If you use one and can recommend one to me, please leave a comment in the comments box at the bottom of the page.

Only fly with fuel efficient airlines.

Below is an example of transatlantic operators and their fuel efficiency. These have been worked out by industry insiders and are a reliable guide to a per passenger amount. Choose your airline wisely.

co2 by transatlantic airline
CO2 by transatlantic airline

A full list of the global airline ranking can be found here, from the Atmosfair organisation.

Fly on a fuel efficient plane.

This can be quite a complex and technical thing to work out but don’t be put off – it’s easy when you know how. Simply put, you need to find out exactly what plane you are flying on and how many seats it has to work out what your share of the emissions will be. Refer to this article from the IPFS to help you.

The best planes to fly will achieve more than 90 miles per gallon and are generally Boeing aircraft. The most efficient planes right now are the Boeing Dreamliner 787 and the Boeing 737-Max. So long as a Dreamliner has 240 seats or the 737 has 150 or more seats on board it, then you can see you’d hit the over 90mpg target. You can also double check the number of seats it has on websites like Seat Guru. You just need the full aircraft code, i.e. ‘Boeing 787-800’ is a Boeing Dreamliner 787 version 8.

Use Eco-accommodation.

Hostels generally operate in a more fuel efficient way than hotels do, so try and travel in a communal way where ever you can. Couchsurfing is perhaps the ultimate efficient way to travel efficiently. It might also be the best way to live like a local and truly experience the place you are visiting. I haven’t done this yet but will try it soon – why not! Check out the Couchsurfing website here.

Offset your carbon.

Some environmental champions say that offsetting you carbon doesn’t tackle the reductions that we need to achieve and they are right. It does demonstrate some mindfulness however. As a result I have decided to offset every trip I make and for my next trip to Italy in December I have offset the carbon as you can see below. I am still going to strive to hit my 5 tons per year target however.

carbon offset


To me, it appears as though many of the most efficient ways of travelling – flying economy, using hostels or couchsurfing – are the ways that are the most social and cultural too. That is what I call a win-win situation. If we get more for travelling because we are doing it in an ethical and socially conscious way, then it seems clear to me that this is the right way forwards. I will endeavour to follow these routes and hope to report on it here, on Resfeber Travel Blog soon.

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