Staying Green While Traveling: How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint!

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INSIDER SECRET:   Many popular airlines allow you to donate to a carbon offset program at the time you book your flight.

Technological advances over the years have made it easier to do business over great distances. Cars and airplanes, for instance, help us do business face to face in hours — nationwide and between continents.

With those technological advances, however, have come increased carbon emissions and environmental damage. Many studies have shown that our emissions have significantly increased ever since the Wright brothers launched manned flight in 1902 and Carl Benz created the first automobile in 1879.

But if you travel frequently, there are a lot of things you can do to lower your carbon footprint.

Every time you fly on an airplane, you’re adding to your carbon footprint. Fortunately, there are tons of things you can do to offset those added emissions. (Photo by Ink Drop/Shutterstock)

How to Calculate Your Carbon Emissions, and What You Can Do to Cut Back

The more we fly, the more we contribute to the market for air travel and all the jet fuel it burns, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If you’re wondering just how much of an impact you’re making, here’s one way you can quickly estimate your carbon footprint!

We might not be able to avoid flying altogether, but there are plenty of things we can do to reduce the impact.

Fly on a More Fuel-Efficient Airplane

Certain aircraft are more fuel-efficient than others, generating far fewer carbon emissions. Their efficiency will depend on a number of factors, such as the overall weight, aerodynamic design, materials used and engine efficiency.

Generally speaking, newer aircraft are likely to be more fuel-efficient because of the increased awareness of carbon emissions and climate change, along with efforts to push more sustainable transportation, but this isn’t always the case.

Here are four fuel-efficient aircraft to keep an eye out for:

  • Airbus A3250 XWB
  • Airbus A380
  • Boeing B787-800 Dreamliner
  • Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Lose the Extra Baggage and Travel Light

The more you bring, the more weight you’re adding to the plane, which will make the flight less fuel-efficient. Pack light and you’ll be doing your bit in reducing just a few more of those carbon emissions.

If you travel light, you’ll be helping to ensure less weight on the plane, just a bit more fuel efficiency, and thus fewer carbon emissions. (Photo by Chun photographer/Shutterstock)

How You Can Donate and Support Green Organizations

Certified Organizations

To help fight climate change and offset carbon emissions, there are a number of certified organizations that fight for and fund projects to offset carbon emissions. Here are a few:

You can make cash donations to any of these organizations.

Donating Your Miles and Points

If you travel a lot for work, you should consider adding a business credit card that fits your spending habits. You’ll be able to earn a ton of points, which you could eventually donate to a good cause.

These are just a few airlines that have established some sort of charity program:

You’ll notice that only JetBlue has a charity dedicated to climate change. Most others have eco-friendly causes, but JetBlue allows you to donate to However, there’s an answer to this below.

Book Flights With Eco-Friendly Airlines

Some airlines are a lot better than others when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. We’ve made a list of the top 10 US airlines according to Atmosfair’s 2018 report. If you have a choice of airline to fly and you want to help lower your carbon emissions, these should be at the top of your list.

On top of choosing to fly with these eco-friendlier airlines, you can make an even stronger impact by donating to charities they work with.

Some of these airlines also offer the chance to purchase carbon offsets when booking your flight. These are funds which are then invested in third-party projects specifically designed to reduce carbon emissions.

AirlineUS RankWorld RankCharity ProgramCarbon Offset Program?
Alaska Airlines122Charity Miles programYes
Delta Airlines245SkyWishYes
United Airlines350Mileage Plus Charity MilesYes
Hawaiian Airlines457HawaiianMiles Charity
American Airlines558AAdvantage Charity
Alaska Horizon690Charity Miles programYes
Ohana by Hawaiian7106HawaiianMiles Charity
United Express8119Mileage Plus Charity MilesYes
Delta Connection9121SkyWishYes
Envoy (American)10122AAdvantage Charity

What’s Your Corporate Sustainability Strategy?

Companies are increasingly adopting some sort of corporate carbon policy, and if you’re in a position to make a change like this happen in your company, it’s definitely worth looking into. Examples of policy changes to preserve the environment are things like arranging car rentals in more fuel-efficient vehicles and booking flights with the eco-friendly airlines we’ve listed above.

Outside of the environmental benefits, having some form of corporate carbon policy could have added benefits for your company:

  1. Preparing for the possibility of future regulation that calls for reduced carbon emissions
  2. Saving money from improvements in energy and operational efficiency (e.g. solar panels and LEED-certified green buildings)
  3. Reducing your carbon footprint by having more environmentally friendly partners in your company’s supply chain 

Travel Tips on How to Be More Green

As a business traveler, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Rent a fuel-efficient car – Electric vehicles are gaining in popularity and are probably the best choice, but if you can’t drive electric, a good hybrid vehicle is a step forward.
  • Travel by train and/or bus – Public transportation (any kind of ridesharing, really) is probably the best way to cut back on your carbon footprint. Some cities go a step further by having their buses running on cleaner fuel, such as natural gas (CNG), which is far better for the environment than petroleum-based fuel.
  • Book a LEED-certified hotel – LEED-certified, or “green certified” hotels, have taken additional steps to ensure that their buildings decrease their carbon footprint in areas such as energy efficiency, sourcing from sustainable vendors, using water efficiently, and waste management.

Bottom Line

For anyone who travels frequently for business, there are lots of ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. These include:

  • Traveling light
  • Booking a flight with an eco-friendly airline and contributing to their associated charities and carbon-offset programs
  • Book at a LEED-certified hotel

And when you arrive at your destination, take public transportation or rent a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

Do you have any other tips for reducing your carbon footprint while traveling? Let us know in the comments below! And subscribe to our newsletter for tips and trick to travel cheaper and smarter!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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