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Carbon Footprint Series Part 2: Impact on Flying

As business develops its reach globally, air travel has increasingly become a necessity rather than a luxury. And yet, climate-change activists around the world are paradoxically reaching out, encouraging consumers around the world to reduce their carbon footprint caused by commercial aviation and find alternative solutions.

Air travel contributes to approximately two to three percent of global carbon emissions, but because its rate of growth is estimated at five percent a year, the UK-based Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warns households to reduce their carbon emissions by 90% by 2050 in order to offset this disparity. The US’s Environmental Protection Agency currently states similar but less direct guidelines.

Although aviation scientists are aggressively pursuing research in alternative fuels and designs—for example, NASA’s recent Green Aviation Summit pushed for a twenty percent fuel cut by 2020—there are specific actions we can all explore as consumers today.

Consciously choosing the choice to fly
The simple act of consciously questioning the necessity of your flight or whether alternative communication media can be used is the first step to scheduling fewer flights while protecting our environment. Understanding that flying does not need to be the default choice opens doors to new choices and creative solutions.

Knowing your alternatives
Web and video conferencing products enable virtually seamless communication solutions to employees who want to reduce both the budgetary and environmental impact of air travel. Laptops and smart phones allow for seamless efficiency during smaller meetings, while virtual events steadily reach mainstream marketing channels. Webinars, virtual trade shows and training events, and video conferences can strengthen both external and internal channel growth, especially when staged in tandem with a live event.

Carbon offset purchases
When individuals make the choice to fly, more and more now purchase carbon offsets as a way of contributing to environmental solutions. Carbon offset purchases reduce GHG emissions by funding sustainable projects. Some of the most common include renewable energy projects such as wind farms, biomass energy, or hydroelectric dams, but other projects work to eliminate industrial pollutants or landfill methane, or improve forestry growth.

There are numerous carbon offset providers, some of which are for-profit, and consumers must look carefully where the money goes. Also, standards to check for are the Kyoto Protocol and the Voluntary Carbon Standard. Here are a few global sources that Tufts University lists as “go to” carbon offset purchasing resources to consider:

myclimate: a non-profit company based in Switzerland
atmosfair: a German non-profit company focusing on offsetting air travel
climate friendly: an Australian-based for-profit company
NativeEnergy: a US-based for-profit company

Though some critics object to carbon offsets, many feel it represents a positive, simple action we can take as either individuals or businesses to counterbalance the impact of negative environmental choices. Be sure to check back for the third and final part of our carbon footprint series that digs deeper into the benefits that telecommuting can bring to the environment and to employees’ lives.

Tell us: have either you or your organization taken measures to reduce air travel lately with the environment in mind?

About Lea Green

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