Af Per Summer
How can we travel more responsibly?
Like so many others, I love to travel. Like far away in planes to exotic countries with a pleasant climate. And with airline tickets just getting cheaper and cheaper, I'm not the only one flying more than ever before. So why take the train or car to Berlin when it is both faster and cheaper to hop on a plane? But flying is really bad for our climate.
An aircraft emits almost three times as much CO2 per kilometers pr. person compared to a car - not very sustainable. And more than 16 times as much as an electric train. And since we fly much longer than we drive in a car, for example, planes fly a lot more. Read on and learn more about how you can travel more sustainable.
A trip to Bangkok "costs" about 1.800 beef steaks
I have long known that flying was bad for the climate, but I justified my flights by saying that I have instead reduced my consumption - and I have especially started to eat less meat. But as I began to delve a little more into aircraft CO2 emissions, it quickly became clear that my lesser meat consumption was proposing like a tailor in hell. Because even though I do not eat meat for a whole year, it covers far from the CO2 emissions that a return ticket to Bangkok, for example, emits.
So not even by changing my behavior by shopping less and avoiding meat, can I immediately compensate for a trip to Bangkok.
A return flight without stopovers to Bangkok emits 5 tonnes of CO2. If I were to 'save' it up by not eating meat, then that equates to me not being allowed to eat 360 kg of beef. That is roughly equivalent to 1.800 good beef steaks. On average, a Danish man eats 88 kg of meat a year, while a woman eats 58 kg. Only after four meat-free years will a man have 'saved together' for the plane ticket to Bangkok. Women need to save up for six years…
Sustainable tourism is misleading
The recent great focus in the media on the harmful effects of aircraft on the climate has also made me think about how I can travel more sustainably, and I felt like investigating the matter further.
Several organizations, which works with climate and sustainability, does not recognize the concept of sustainable tourism, as all travel to a greater or lesser degree affects the environment. Instead, we should talk about responsible tourism, where we are aware of the negative consequences and at the same time travel more responsibly. 10% of the world's population work in tourism - related industries, so if we stop traveling, it will have particularly negative consequences in many poor countries that are deeply dependent on tourism. And that in itself, I think, is a good reason to leave.
Fly less, fly direct and fly in economy class - travel sustainably
It almost goes without saying that the most effective way to reduce its CO2 footprint is by flying less. Choose fewer long trips and possibly stay away for longer instead of a lot of short vacations. According to the think tank CONCITO, every Dane emits an average of 19 tonnes of CO2 per year, which makes us the seventh most CO2-polluting country in the world.
So by dropping the trip to Bangkok, it corresponds to about 20% of a Dane's emissions. But according to the UN's climate goals, we are actually going even further down. The goal here is 2-3 tons of CO2 per. Danes a year.
By choosing more direct flights and fewer stopovers, you can also save CO2. According to a report from NASA, approximately 25% of an aircraft's emissions come from takeoffs and landings. Unfortunately, travel with many stopovers is often much cheaper. Maybe our politicians should start taxing travel with many stops?
I can not even afford to fly in business class, and it is actually very good for the environment. Studies have shown that you emit up to three times as much CO2 on business, as it utilizes the aircraft's capacity less.
You can CO2 compensate your trip
CO2 compensation means that you support a climate-friendly project with an amount corresponding to your flight's CO2 emissions. This could be, for example, afforestation or support for better wood-burning stoves in developing countries.
Most airlines also offer that you can offset CO2 through their websites. Unfortunately, it is often tucked away and I wish they offered it as aggressively as they offer hotels, car rentals and insurance…
Here you can see the possibilities for CO2 compensation with the largest airlines (January 2019):
Does not offer the opportunity to compensate for CO2 in connection with the purchase process. But they have a page (tucked away) where you can calculate and pay compensation.
Does not offer the opportunity to compensate for CO2. But they themselves have launched a number of projects.
Does not offer the opportunity to compensate for CO2.
Offers the opportunity to CO2 offset when you pay for your ticket.
Collaborates with the organization Myclimate.
- British Airways
Just before payment, you have the opportunity to compensate with up to 50 kroner no matter how far you fly. 50 kroner is a completely unrealistically low amount, and I recommend that you compensate through other organizations.
Offers purchases when you book a ticket.
I myself have tried several of the above organizations, and Atmosfair is the organization that I myself lean most towards. It does some very specific calculations for the companies that you travel with.
Criticism of CO2 compensation
So does it help to offset CO2? Yes, say the airlines, but many researchers are also critical. Many believe that CO2 compensation makes us blind to our consumption. Even if trees are planted via your CO2 compensation, trees cannot absorb it as fast as planes emit it. The best solution would be for us to fly less and plant more trees at the same time.
Either way, it is always better to compensate than not to. Because regardless of whether we compensate for CO2 or not, we in Denmark are already wasting far too much. As mentioned, we emit approximately 19 tonnes of CO2 per year per Dane. The most responsible is both to fly less, eat more sustainably and in general reduce consumption. And then we should probably also help the world's developing countries to pollute less. So even if we do not fly, we should still support more CO2 neutralizing projects.
A sustainable responsibility for the individual
There is no doubt that it places great demands on the individual to travel more sustainable. It is tempting to take an extra trip to Bangkok if you can get away for less than 4.000 kroner. Therefore, it is also important to remind each other to be more moderate and remember to pay CO2 compensation.
But if it is to really make a difference, it will require intensive research to make aircraft much more sustainable. EasyJet has announced that in the future they will focus on electric planes between London and Amsterdam. Maybe it's the way forward and sustainable enough? And then we must have the Folketing and the EU on the field. Today, for example, there is no VAT on air travel, and the fuel is largely exempt from taxes. And then it does not make sense at all that a trip to Bangkok with four stopovers is cheaper than flying direct.
If I were a politician, I would also work hard to make more sustainable forms of travel such as train travel both cheaper and more coherent in the EU.
Good sustainable journey!