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How to Offset Your Carbon Footprint When Traveling by Air

Flying is one of the quickest and most convenient ways to travel, but it also comes with a pretty big carbon footprint. In fact, according to some estimates, flying just one round trip from New York City to London results in a carbon footprint of about 1,889 pounds—that’s more than the average person in the UK produces in an entire month!

So what can you do if you want to offset your carbon footprint when traveling by air? Here are a few ideas:

Book a direct flight

One of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint when flying is to book a direct flight. Not only will this save you time, but it will also reduce the amount of fuel that your plane burns.

Choose eco-friendly flights and airlines

When booking your flight, take a look at the airlines’ environmental policies to see how they’re working to offset their carbon footprints. Some airlines purchase carbon offsets, while others invest in new, fuel-efficient aircraft.

In general, always choose flights with newer aircraft. That way, you can be sure that their planes are more efficient, and you’ll have peace of mind that they won’t malfunction while you’re on them. Choose mid-size planes too, since multiple-aisle jumbo jets are not as efficient. Private flights are awful for the environment, but single-aisle planes are efficient.

You can also book flights on websites with eco-friendly options. Most of them are not accurate, but it’s better than not trying anything at all.

Some airlines also allow you to donate to carbon offsets yourself and charge it to your ticket price, but this cost also goes higher the more miles the flight spans. There are even airlines that let frequent flyers donate their miles instead of cash for carbon offsets.

Apart from these, try to learn more about the airlines’ other sustainable practices, such as using eco-friendly materials for in-flight meals. If you do some intense research and ask around on forums, you can even discover what sustainable practices they do when servicing their aircraft lavatory and facilities.

Doing all this research may seem like a hassle, but you can make it a bit easier by checking this list from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The ICCT ranks airlines by their energy efficiency, which is a huge factor in determining whether an airline has sustainable practices. Investigating may be hard, but if you’re environmentally conscious and fly frequently, it’ll be worth it. It can help you find an airline that you can be loyal to, and this will also help you accumulate frequent flyer miles.

Three solid-shell luggage bags side by side near a terminal window with a plane taking off outside

Travel light

The heavier your plane is, the more fuel it burns. So pack light and only bring what you need. This helps airlines save fuel, and it benefits the environment. This practice fits well with the eco-friendly mindset of reducing consumption waste, which many environmentally conscious individuals practice in daily life. This will also make your trip more enjoyable! It’s definitely more freeing to not have to worry about your check-in baggage getting damaged or lost

Offset your flights

If you’re unable to book a direct flight or find an eco-friendly airline, you can offset your flights by purchasing carbon offsets yourself. Carbon offsets are investments in renewable energy projects that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you want an exact amount for how much you should spend, look for a carbon footprint calculator online. Most are very simple to use, too. Then, you can purchase carbon offsets through many different companies, including Carbonfund.org and NativeEnergy.com.

Fly only when you need to

Lastly, the best way to make a smaller carbon footprint from air travel is to avoid flying. You should only be taking the plane when you’re going to places really far away. If you’re only traveling for an hour or two, look into driving or taking the train. Public transportation is still the most efficient when it comes to fuel consumption and emissions. In most countries, trains are the most eco-friendly way of traveling, too. If you find yourself in continental Europe, you should rely more on trains — that way, you can save money, produce a smaller carbon footprint, AND experience how locals travel. It’s a sure win!


Flying is one of the quickest and most convenient ways to travel, but it also comes with a pretty big carbon footprint. If you’re interested in offsetting your carbon footprint when traveling by air, there are a few things you can do, including booking direct flights, choosing eco-friendly flights, packing light, and offsetting flights by purchasing carbon offsets. Last but not the least, you always have to consider whether you need to fly at all!

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