How to be a Green Airline Passenger

Tips for Reducing the Impact of your Air Travel

Alright, so you’ve done your homework to find the greenest airline, you’ve purchased carbon offsets to help reduce the carbon impact of your trip, and you've even found a way to get to the airport with the lowest possible carbon footprint. What more could you possibly do?

Good news! There are plenty of practical, tangible things you can do as a passenger to reduce your air travel impact even further. For the biggest impact, follow these simple steps to cut your carbon down.


Book green flights

None of us likes a stopover! Not only does it feel like a big of a waste of time, it also costs the environment. Direct flights, on the other hand, reduce fuel burned because they cut the number of takeoffs and landings, and they minimize descend-and-level-off flight plans which are an inefficient use of fuel. So try to find an itinerary that limits the number of stops along the way.

Go further in your green flight efforts by opting for economy class flights over business or executive class. Yes, flying in luxury is more comfortable, but because they use more space and produce more waste, these options are not as eco-friendly as flying economy. And of course, regardless of which class you choose, be sure to buy some carbon offsets (more for business/first class) to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions impact.

Another way for you to reduce your air travel waste is to opt for e-tickets. Rather than printing boarding passes, download your tickets to your PDA or your smart phone and then present that to the gate crew.


Reduce baggage weight

True, you’re only one person, but when every one of the 250 passengers brings two or more full pieces of luggage plus a carryon item or two, it all adds up! You can travel lighter by being thoughtful when packing your bags. Do you really need that extra sweater? Will you actually read all five books you’ve got in your carryon? Can you get by with only three lipsticks instead of five? You get the idea. Just work on living a little simpler while you’re out of town so that you can minimize the fuel required to transport your goods by air from one location to another.


Handle your own waste

We’re snackers. Many of us eat throughout the day, requiring a brief food break on even a 2-hour flight. But so much waste is produced by these passing meals, large and small. You can help with the in-flight waste problem in one of two ways. Accept the snacks and beverages given to you, but be sure to carry off your own waste and recycle it in the airport, your hotel, or at home (not all airlines have good recycling programs).

Alternatively, take your own meals and snacks in reusable containers. In the case of beverages, this may require that you carry an empty water bottle or coffee cup past security and fill it on the other side, but food items should not be a problem assuming they’re not liquid!

Likewise with your headsets. Rather than accepting “disposable” earphones from the flight attendant, bring your own airline-compatible options to avoid chucking perfectly functional electronics as you de-board.


Pee before you fly

Caution, for the extreme: Might seem a bit… strange, but peeing before you fly may also help to reduce your on-board weight! Full bladders and aircraft holding tanks alike add weight to a plane, thereby increasing the fuel required to complete the flight. So pee before you fly by taking advantage of waiting area restrooms. You’ll fly more freely, and so will your plane!  

If you fell for this last one your middle name must be gullible.


[1] Aviation\'s Climate Change Impact is Small. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2010, from International Air Transport Association:
[2] NWA Fleet Nation\'s Oldest On Average. (2008, April 13). Retrieved March 24, 2008, from WCCO: 2010

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