As a general rule, flying is not very green because of the huge amount of carbon emissions planes produce. However, there are a few things we can do to reduce the impact on the environment. I'm going to use this article from Planet Green, 5 Ways to Green Your Flight, as a guide for the rest of this post.
Book a Direct Flight
You don't have to tell me twice! I would obviously opt for a direct flight when available for a reasonable price, but now I have another reason to make this a priority next time. I had no idea that about 50% of the carbon emissions released by airplanes come from the takeoff and the landing. So having a lay over on your flight increases the impact significantly, not to mention the extra fuel burnt while idling on the runway. Our flight had one stop in Dallas, Texas. I didn't book the flights, so I am not sure if a non-stop flight was an option. We often can't control this, but I'm going to look into all the extra costs (both financially and environmentally) of both options the next time I book a flight.
Choose a Green Airline
We flew on American Airlines, who has apparently just introduced 76 new greener jets to their fleet that get about 28% better gas millage than their older jets. I don't think that we flew in one of these planes, but it's good to know they are taking a step in the right direction. We also had e-tickets, although we still got a printed boarding pass upon check-in. It would be nice if it was completely paperless -- letting me check-in online and pull up the boarding pass on my iPhone to get scanned at the gate.
Buy Carbon Offsets
I didn't even know this was an option, but I'm looking into it and will certainly be buying my share to offset this flight as well as the impact of our car. The idea is that you calculate the carbon emissions produce during your flight and pay that money to fund a project that reduces greenhouse gases. I'm still doing a lot of research on this, and will likely write a future post about it, but I was astonished to learned that 1 flight can produce more emissions than a car does for an entire year. Of course, driving to San Francisco would not have been feasible or practical, but we can still do our part to offset our impact.
Don't Use the Airplane Bathroom
I had no idea this had such an impact, consuming about six miles worth of fuel. I never look forward to using these anyway, and when you have to go you have to go, but I'll be more mindful of going before I board from now on.
We packed one big bag for the both of us that weighed 53 lbs, and we each have a carry-on backpack. Despite our best efforts, I think we could have packed less. I have to admit, I think I packed more workout clothes/gear than every day clothes because weather is unpredictable. I initially packed even more than I brought, but I managed to downsize some at the last minute. I never thought traveling as a runner would prove to be more complicated, but I'll learn efficiencies and streamline it as I travel now.
Additional Tips (of things we tried):
- go paperless as much as possible: e-ticket, phone receipt, etc.
- bring an empty water bottle in the carry-on, and fill it at a water fountain after going through security instead of buying overpriced drinks on the plane and contributing to the use and waste of plastic cups
- pack snacks to eat on the plane and at destination instead of buying overpriced and unhealthy food at the airport/plane
- go grocery shopping at destination and cook instead of eating out -- this may not always be possible if there is no access to a kitchen, but even keeping healthy snacks around can help.
- walk, rent a bicycle, or take the bus for transportation instead of driving
- plan ahead to reduce spending on one-use items