12 Ways for Frequent Flyers to Minimise their Carbon Footprint (and other environmental impacts)

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It kinda goes without saying, but I really do travel a lot! I recently came to the realisation that due to my frequent air travel, my carbon footprint would be nothing less than significant. As a result, I have actively been trying to minimise this footprint in other ways and reduce my overall impact on the environment.

So, here are twelve relatively simple ways to not just carbon offset your flights, but to carbon offset your entire travelling lifestyle.

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Carbon offset your flights

Okay, let us start with the most obvious! The practice of carbon offsetting of flights has now become so mainstream that most airlines will ask if you want to do so at booking! However, the cost of carbon offsetting through airlines is routinely wildly underestimated and it can be difficult to see where your money is actually going.

For example, when I recently flew from Darwin to Singapore, the airline I flew with offered to offset my flight for the low price of around $3 AUD, however after researching with multiple different companies, it seems that $30 is a much more realistic cost for true offsetting.

It would be easy to say ‘I can’t afford to pay that kind of money for every flight’, but when you really think about the environmental implications of commercial flying, it’s an excuse that just doesn’t hold much water.

So, choosing to carbon offset your flights is a great first step, but in order to really make a difference it pays to research third party non-profit organisations who are working really hard to slow down the speed at which our planet seems to be heading for disaster.

I really like the German based Atmosfairwhich is doing some truly phenomenal things across the globe.

Eat less meat and fish

Animal related agriculture is responsible for as much as 18% of the human caused greenhouse gas emissions – which is utterly massive. The cost of eating meat and fish to the global environment is truly unfathomable. I am certainly not going to tell anybody that they need to completely cut these things out of their diets (we all make our own choices) but simply making efforts to reduce consumption of these proteins (especially beef and lamb) will significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

Use reef safe sunscreen

Sun protection is important for everyone, but especially for those of us with more pale complexions. However, the ocean shouldn’t pay the price for our skin protection, so when choosing a sunscreen to use in our oceans, do a little research and find one that is reef safe and going to have minimal (or no) impact on our reefs, our oceans and the creatures that call them home.

Basically, you want to find a sunscreen that is free from oxybenzones – I love the one by REN Clean Skincare.

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Consciously choose to support national parks and projects that promote conservation and sustainability

When making decisions about where and how to travel, it really pays to do some research into all the available options and choose one that is doing more than simply generating profit.

For example, I am consciously choosing to do my once in a lifetime gorilla trek in the Democratic Republic of Congo rather than Uganda or Rwanda later this year. I am doing so because the Virunga National Park is doing all that they can to protect wildlife (especially gorillas) and when I say that they are doing all they can, I really mean it.

Not only does any money spent within Virunga go towards sustainable projects for local Congolese people who live within the park, but it also goes towards paying the wages of the park rangers, who for just $250 USD per month will (and have) lay down their lives to protect the endangered mountain gorillas who call Virunga home.

The money I have spent to go to Virunga is money that I feel extremely good about spending.

Switch to cruelty free, clean and/or vegan cosmetics

As someone who likes to indulge in boujee, expensive and indulgent cosmetic and skincare products, it is safe to say that I have tried and tested a truly ridiculous number of brands and products out.

Over time I am becoming more and more aware of which brands are cruelty free and am attempting to slowly make my collection more and more eco-friendly and ethical.

Brands that fit this bill that I absolutely adore include Hourglass, REN Clean Skincare, Chantecaille, Marc Jacobs, Drunk Elephant, Dr Dennis Gross, IT Cosmetics (not vegan but they do not test on animals), KORRES, RMS Beauty, Ole Henriksen and Tatcha.

Utilise public transport and consider not owning a personal vehicle

When it comes to carbon emissions, people seem to think first and foremost about the implication of commercial flights, however, the emissions from vehicles can be just as damaging. If you were to solo drive a vehicle across a country, the emissions from that journey would be greater than if you flew on a plane that had greater 80% occupancy.

If you can feasibly use public transport or use a bicycle as your main source of transport, then why not consider doing so! Doing so will save you money, improve your fitness and dramatically reduce your environmental impact.

I have never owned a car, and honestly, I don’t intend to. I use public transport, ride a bicycle and use ridesharing to get myself around. I understand that for people living in places with poor public transport or barriers to cycling that this may not be an option, but for people in many cities across the globe it really would be.

Choose eco friendly properties and hotels

It seems that over the past few years, hotels and resorts have started really making an effort to ‘go green’. It isn’t uncommon to now find a decided lack of single use bathroom amenities, refillable water bottles and signs encouraging you to limit the length of your showers and reuse your towels.

These changes may seem small, but if every hotel in the world adopted these practices, the consumption of energy and single use plastics would be vastly minimised.

Furthermore, some hotels and resorts are becoming more and more creative in their efforts to become more sustainable. For example, Cempedak Island (seen below) has designed their villas in such a way that they are perfectly naturally ventilated, and even in tropical Indonesia, the lack of aircon is never an issue.

Other eco friendly properties that I love include Soneva Kiri (Thailand), Soneva Fushi (Maldives), Barry’s Place (Timor-Leste), Jaci’s Safari Lodge (South Africa), Sea Change Eco Retreat (Tonga), Laka Lodge (Comoros) and Tongabezi (Zambia).

Reduce your consumption of single use plastics

Did you know that every single scrap, piece and shred of plastic that has ever been produced is still somewhere on our planet?

It’s a pretty terrifying thought.

Single use plastics may be small, but they are rapidly filling our oceans and quite literally choking many different creatures to death.

It is not realistic to expect that everybody will be able to complete eliminate their use of these plastics completely, but there are many things you can do to minimise your consumption.

Carrying canvas grocery bags, buying (and actually using) refillable water bottles and coffee cups, opting for recycled packaging when it is an available option and choosing not to buy prepackaged fruits and vegetables are just a few simple things you can do which will have a huge impact.

Utilise effective contraceptives

You know what’s a massive strain on the planet and its resources?

People!

Overpopulation is fast becoming a real threat to the environment, and each new person brought into the world furthers that strain.

Personally, I have made the decision to not have children (and no, I won’t change my mind when I meet the right guy) – which means that effective contraception is for me, a must.

Abstaining from having children or practising sustainable family planning to ensure that family sizes remain reasonable will have a huge positive effect on the environment.

Unfortunately, for many women in developing nations, access to contraception has far too many barriers, and in same cases, isn’t available at all. This is a travesty that will hopefully start to change soon, but in the meantime, as people who have access to the luxury of contraceptives and the opportunity to actively decide if and when we have children, we should do so mindfully, taking into account the choices that we make and how they impact the environment.

Invest in a menstrual cup

Not only will a menstrual cup revolutionise your long term travels, consistent use of one will dramatically reduce how many sanitary products end up in landfill. They are also far cheaper for us as consumers, so it’s undeniably win-win.

Only buy clothes that you’ll wear at least 15 times in a year

Buying clothes is getting easier and cheaper every day, but this does not necessarily equal better. As things become cheaper, people do seem (on the whole) to value them less, and as a result, many clothes are seen as disposable items, destined only to be worn once or maybe twice before ending up in landfill.

Buying cheaper clothes isn’t a bad thing, especially if you only do it once in a blue moon, but if this becomes a regular pattern, your contribution to excess waste will just grow and grow.

When you do go to purchase a new item in the future, try to do so mindfully. Ask yourself ‘can I realistically see myself wearing this piece fifteen times in a year?’

If the answer is no, maybe you should rethink whether you really need that new purchase.

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and for the love of good, get a metal straw!

Seriously, just do it.

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

3 thoughts on “12 Ways for Frequent Flyers to Minimise their Carbon Footprint (and other environmental impacts)

  1. Great post 🙂 Some of these things are so obvious, but I only recently started to rethink a lot of my habits while travelling. It is easy to forget how privileged we are for having the opportunity to travel the world, so it’s time we become aware of our own impact on the planet and local habitats.

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