The International Civil Aviation Organization has predicted that by 2045, international air traffic will increase by 3.3 times, leading to increased fuel consumption by the airlines and consequently more CO2 emissions. Clearly air travel is here to stay, however our carbon footprint is increasing daily.  In fact, many popular places are currently in danger or under threat by climate change today, places like Rio de Janeiro.  Tragically, the glaciers on Kilimanjaro in Tanzania are expected to completely disappear between the years 2022 and 2033. 

We can still make a difference by reducing our own carbon footprint in many ways. While at home, things like insulating your house, using solar panels, or planting a tree, are some of the simplest changes that we can make, and within our control.  So, although many people cannot sail to their destinations like young activist Greta Thunberg, here are some of the things you can do while traveling to lower your carbon footprint and be an eco-friendly traveler.

1.  To lower carbon footprint, avoid taking too many flights

Since air travel is responsible for the great amount of your carbon footprint while on holiday, avoid flying as much as you can and aim for non-stop travel.  Layovers and stopover flights are great for adding more places to see especially when traveling internationally, but are not so great for the planet.  The good news is that more and more airlines are increasing the number of direct flights.  For example, United Airlines is the first North American airline to fly direct to Cape Town, South Africa.  And the best way to travel Europe is by train, so take the train from London to Paris and Eurostar will help you cut carbon emissions by 90%!

2. Fly economy class (or even business)

Keep these number in mind the next time you choose which class to fly: Because of the amount of space per seat and increased luggage allotment for business and first class passengers, their average carbon footprint is much greater than those in economy class. Business class passengers have a footprint 3 times greater than economy class. And for that very long flight to Japan, if you must choose between business class vs. first class, remember that the footprint of first class passenger is a staggering 9 times more than of an economy class passenger. The new delta premium economy service is not too shabby either.

3. Fly the latest & fuel-efficient planes to reduce carbon footprint

This one is tough since most of the time passengers have no control over which plane the airline will use. There are many times where the airline will switch planes due to some issue, and that’s understandable, but whenever you can try to go for planes that are more fuel-efficient. The Airbus 350-900, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 777 are all fuel efficient planes. If you are looking for cheap flights from Boston to the U.K, avoid British Airways. The airline has been ranked as having the least fuel-efficient planes for transatlantic flights. Fly Norwegian instead.

4. Travel light

Airplanes have to use more fuel during take-offs and landings. The more and heavier luggage the plane carries, the greater the airline’s fuel consumption and carbon footprint. So when you are checking off your list of must visit places in the world, find the best times to travel that includes warmer weather so your bags can be lighter. Places like Nice in the South of France typically get around 300 days of sun a year. For the ladies, things like sundresses are the perfect travel outfits and only need a smaller suitcase.


5. Don’t have your towels changed everyday at the hotel

Most people rarely wash their towels at home every single day, so there is really no reason to have them washed daily outside of your home. The good news is that a lot of hotels have started this practice of giving guests an option to opt out of having their towels washed and changed daily. In particularly drought prone areas like Botswana in Southern Africa or even California, it is a good idea to save as much water as you can.

ps. obviously you do want to have them washed at some point because you also don’t want the person responsible for washing linens to be made redundant. Many businesses will not create a new opportunity for an employee if they discover they can cut costs by reducing their number. So this is sort of a catch-22 because most businesses are driven by numbers.


6. Bring an eco-friendly bag

Instead of getting a plastic bag or any bag every time you buy something, get an eco-friendly bag and bring it with you on holiday. A travel tote made from recycled materials is the most sustainable option not only because it saves existing materials from going to waste, but no new material is created to make it. AAKS bags from Ghana are made from natural materials and hand-woven by local artisans, so the company has a sustainability aspect to it. The bags can be shipped internationally for FREE!

7. Bring a water bottle

Bring your own water bottle to the airport and fill it up after security. If you are traveling to places where tap/fountain water is safe to drink, such as Switzerland or Italy, instead of buying bottled water every time, why not fill up your water bottle as you go.  Not only will you be environmentally conscious, you save a lot of money because water can be quite expensive in some of those places. For example, in Lyon, France, a glass of water can cost more than a glass of wine! But if you do buy water, don’t forget to recycle the bottle.

8.  Trendy fashion increases carbon footprint

We all know fashion moves extremely fast; one minute something is in-style, the next it’s something else. And if you buy with the trend, those clothes that go out of style get dumped in landfills where they produce methane as they decompose.  Every year 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated in the US. According to the EPA, only 2.6 million was recycled, 3.14 million tons sent for combustible energy, and 10.46 made it to landfills. Compare this to 1960, where only 1.67 million made it to the landfill. ?And not only is this wasteful, it’s very very costly. The cost to cities to dispose of any clothing: $45 per ton.

9. Compost your food waste

We have all been there; you go to check out an exciting new restaurant in town, order more food than you can eat but decide you will take it back to the hotel and eat it again later because it was sooo good. Well, come later, the same food doesn’t look appetizing anymore or worse, you forget about it. Instead of throwing it away, leave it a compost drop-off site. A number of cities now have these compost drop-off/ waste reduction sites that act like recycle centers for food. Cities like New York, Minneapolis, Philadelphia & many more.

10. Offset your carbon emissions

What’s a carbon offset? Basically just a way to compensate the planet for your bad behavior by paying for something that reduces greenhouse gases somewhere else. You can use this carbon footprint calculator to estimate how much emissions you contributed to during your travels and will give you options on how you can offset your flight footprint. For example, my flight this summer from Johannesburg to London emitted 5.41 metric tons of CO2. To offset my flight footprint, I can either pay $100 that will go towards planting trees in the UK or $73.55 to go towards reforestation in Kenya.