Travel restrictions have been relaxed and we’re able to travel to different countries after several months of lockdown and a motionless economy. According to National Geographic, daily CO2 emissions fell 17 per cent below last year’s levels during lockdown. While it is positive for the environment, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere increased to 418 parts per million, equating to the highest ever recorded level.
It has never been more important for us to evaluate our carbon footprint, particularly in business. The BBC reported that aviation contributes to roughly two per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, with passenger numbers predicted to double to 8.2 billion in 2037. In 2018, there were eight million business trips taken from the UK — taking a long haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person does in a year. With other sectors of the economy working towards a greener way of life, aviation’s negative contribution is set to rise.
The fall in CO2 emissions exhibit how we can make changes when humanity work towards a common goal. So here, we’ll take a look at how to keep your business trip eco-friendly, looking at alternative ways to travel or developments in technology that allow businesses to work remotely.
1. Do you need to travel?
The majority of us have probably had Zoom and Skype calls over lockdown. Technology has become incredibly useful in allowing us to connect with people all over the world, and these digital tools have revolutionised the working world, facilitating virtual meetings. The pandemic has put remote working software to the test, with offices split and a vast majority of workers working from home — Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype for Business have been on the forefront of remote working.
Communication technologies are allowing employees to be more productive and efficient. Large amounts of time and money can be saved by choosing to switch to virtual meetings rather than flying for several hours across the world. Relationships can be maintained internally and externally without needing everyone in the same room.
2. Alternative options
If it is essential that you travel, consider your mode of transport. For example, do you really need to fly? If it’s possible to take a train or bus instead of a plane, you should consider it. Travelling by train releases around seven times less emissions than a plane does in the same route. Although this might not be feasible for cross-country trips, it’s certainly more efficient and sustainable than regional or national flights. Eco passenger is a handy tool to compare the energy consumption and CO2 emissions when travelling with different transport.
Did you know that travelling by train is almost always greener than a plane? For example, a journey from London to Madrid would release 43kg of CO2 per passenger by train and 118kg by plane.
In the event that other modes of transport aren’t possible, and you must take a flight, fly economy class. According to the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), carbon emissions are three times higher per passenger per kilometre travelled for business class and four times higher for first class. This is due to the fact that there’s more space per seat, with each person accounting for a larger amount of the pollution of the plane.
4. To fly or not to fly direct
Although many different variables contribute, such as strength of wind and number of passengers on board, planes use significantly more fuel when taking off and landing. On a four-hour flight, the surge of engine power used to elevate the plane to the appropriate cruising altitude can account for anywhere between 10 and 20 per cent of total fuel consumption. Simply, direct flights are more efficient, although may be less economical, because you’re only taking off once rather than twice or more.
5. Travelling light
The lighter you travel, the less fuel needed to transport it. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be packing a 138-litre suitcase for a several day business trip, be sensible with what you take with you.
6. Selecting airlines
Now, the notion of an eco-friendly airline might sound highly contradictory, but there are airlines which are more environmentally friendly than others that you could choose to fly with to reduce your carbon footprint. The average fuel consumption per passenger is below four litres per 100km, however some companies are making effort to improve their fuel consumption and efficiency to meet internal targets set within the industry.
These eco-friendly targets can be a range of goals. They may include upgrading to a greener fleet with newer aircrafts (older aircraft use more kerosene, a combustible hydrocarbon liquid derived from petroleum) and using more environmentally friendly materials. You can also carry out additional research by finding which aircraft you’ll be flying on and which models are more fuel efficient. For example, Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 are leading the way in terms of fuel efficiency. If you want to go the extra mile, you can research CO2 emissions for your flight with Matrix Airfare Search by comparing similar airlines and routes to find the most eco-friendly route and airline for you.
7. Carbon offsetting
You can book a flight with an airline which offsets carbon emissions. The rise of ‘flygskam’, which when translated from Swedish means ‘flight shame’, has put pressure on airlines to offer travellers the option to offset the carbon emissions of their flights. This is a process which involves calculating the emissions of a journey and then purchasing credits from projects which focus on preventing or removing the equivalent amount of pollutants somewhere else. For example, many carbon offsetting programs include planting trees to help absorb carbon dioxide to remove it from the atmosphere, a key part in tackling climate change.
According to Gold Standard, the offsetting watchdog, the amount of investment from those hoping to cancel their carbon impact on the planet has risen fourfold over recent years.
The amount of transport you take over a year will likely equate for most of your carbon footprint, a figure even higher for those on business trips. Seriously consider these steps to help us work towards a green society.