How to Make Air Travel Better for the Planet

Could carbon offsets be a solution for climate-conscious travellers?

As exciting as it is to be jet-setting around the globe, air travel packs a significant carbon punch and has serious impacts on our planet. A study by Our World in Data, found that aviation emits just under one billion tonnes of CO2 each year. With demand for air travel back to pre-pandemic levels, travellers may be looking for ways to cut down on their carbon footprint.

Here are a few ways to reduce or offset carbon emissions, whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure. 

Purchase carbon offsets

If you can’t avoid travel, you can attempt to compensate for your carbon footprint. 

Carbon offsetting involves financially supporting a project that’s working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that would emit elsewhere. You can attempt to balance out your entire carbon footprint or offset specific activities, such as flying. 

There are different types of carbon offset projects—all vying to erase CO2 emissions from our atmosphere—including reforestation and conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy, such as solar and wind. 

Many airlines allow you to offset directly when you book your flight—you simply pay a fee on top of the cost of the flight, which is donated to a carbon offset program. If you want more control over exactly where your funds go, you can give to some of the most popular and established carbon offset programs. Climate Action Reserve and Verra, is the world’s most widely-used voluntary greenhouse gas program. 

Reduce your travel emissions 

The pandemic showed us that working from home and conducting video calls wouldn’t stand in the way of productivity. But, while remote work is now normalized, face-to-face time can be necessary. If you can’t keep your business trips grounded, you can at least attempt to find more eco-friendly ways to travel.

While the train is one of the most eco-friendly ways to get around, even driving your car can have a smaller carbon footprint than flying, depending on the distance, number of passengers and type of vehicle. 

If you choose to fly, there are still ways to lessen the impact. A 2020 report from The International Council on Clean Transportation found passengers in premium class emitted up to four times more CO2 per kilometre than those in economy due to extra space. It’s also been shown that direct flights are more climate-friendly than those with stopovers.

Invest in ESG

Responsible investing incorporates environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into the investment decision-making process. Responsible investing options can help you invest more in companies with the strongest ESG practices according to ESG rating providers.

To help offset the environmental costs of travel, you can direct your investment dollars towards companies actively considering their climate change policies, greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. 

Switching to a responsible investing portfolio is simple, especially when you use a robo-advisor like RBC InvestEase. Just answer a few easy questions about your investing goals and risk profile, then choose the Responsible Investing option for the portfolio they recommend for you. Once your account is open and funded, the RBC InvestEase team will manage that portfolio for you, supported by smart technology. 

In Harvard Business Review, research shows that adopting strategic ESG practices is positively associated with return on capital. Responsible investing performs comparably to standard investing and can positively impact the planet.

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