Today at Fussy, we want to take a deeper look at how polluting air transport really is. We all know planes use a lot of greenhouse gasses, but as the first summer without travel restrictions in two years comes to a close, plenty of people including us at Fussy have been hopping on planes in search of sunnier climates and some time away from it all.
HOW BAD IS FLYING?
Flying is often touted as one of the worst causes of global emissions, but in reality, it accounts for 2.5% of all global carbon emissions - electricity production, building infrastructure, agriculture and forestry all have much higher total emissions. The difference is, the emissions from flying are caused by the individual, not by big business we have no power over. Catching flights is usually an individual's single biggest contribution to emissions within a year. A return flight from London to New York would generate the same amount of carbon as a typical person living in Ghana for an entire year.
SHORT HAUL VS LONG HAUL
It may seem counterintuitive, but short-haul flights can actually be more damaging to the environment than long-haul flights. This is because a significant proportion of aeroplane emissions occur during take-off and landing, so although long-haul flights cause more emissions overall, short-haul has a higher proportion for the amount of time spent in the air.
The other reason is that long-haul flights cannot be avoided in most cases. It’s simply not realistic to travel by boat across the Atlantic (unless your Greta Thunberg) so flying is the only option. By contrast, a lot of short-haul journeys can be made by train, especially in Europe, and when you compare the carbon emissions, there is a world of difference.
A flight from Paris to London creates around 111.5 kg of carbon, while taking the train will create just 22.2 kg. Similarly, a flight from Vienna to Brussels would create 220.4 kg of carbon, while the night train creates just 39.9kg. If there’s an option to take a train, not only does it often take the same amount of time when you consider airport security times, it can have a huge impact on your personal carbon footprint.
ECONOMY VS FIRST CLASS VS PRIVATE JET
You don’t have to be a scientist to know that flying on a private plane creates huge amounts of emissions vs. catching a regular flight. This is because of the simple reason that with less people flying, the emissions are a lot higher per individual, when they could be spread across a group all travelling to the same destination. Kylie Jenner recently came under fire when it was discovered she regularly uses her private jet for flights that last less than twenty minutes - these trips will use over 400 litres of fuel and emit one tonne of carbon dioxide.
The same applies to first-class flights vs economy. Whenever you have fewer people taking the same journey, those people are going to produce relatively more carbon. On most flights, first-class passengers will have a footprint nine times bigger than an economy passenger.
WHAT ABOUT CARBON OFFSETTING?
Lots of aviation companies now offer carbon offsetting when you buy your ticket - this is where the amount of carbon that is created during the flight by you as an individual is offset by supporting a project that would produce a saving of carbon equal to what is used. This can be projects such as planting trees or clean water initiatives.
Obviously doing this does not actually prevent any of the carbon emissions that occur during flying, but it is a great initiative nonetheless as there are always going to be instances where flying is necessary.
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?
Often when the discussion on carbon emissions from flights is brought up, it can make people feel really guilty, which we at Fussy hate. There are plenty of ways to help people reduce their carbon footprint without shaming them, and for many reasons, flying is an inevitable part of modern life.
So, if you’ve got travel plans coming up, here are our top tips:
- If your journey is short-haul and could be done by train, look into this option. You’re often allowed a much higher luggage allowance as a bonus and the security queues are a lot less stressful!
- If you have the option for first-class vs. economy class, lean towards economy! It can reduce your footprint 9x and save you a lot of money at the same time.
- Have a look if your airline offers carbon offsetting with your ticket
Fly safe Fussers!