As part of the discussion I was asked to provide some practical ideas for travel planners to reduce the carbon impact of experiences. The following post is a summary of some of the tips, tricks and tools discussed.
Deciding which long-distance destination to visit? Consider which of your locations reduce overall flight miles for participants. I was recently asked to analyse how three different destinations in Asia compared in terms of carbon emissions from flights for 160 travelers from North America. Analysis revealed a difference of 233 metric tons of carbon emissions between the highest and lowest impact locations. Opting for the closest overall destination reduced climate pollution by 30%, which equated to the benefit of keeping nearly 10,000 bags out of trash out of the landfill by recycling.
TOOL: Estimate and compare the potential carbon impact of taking event participants to different destinations using the ICAO flight calculator.
Selecting a destination with low-carbon electricity powered by hydro and other renewables can also make a big difference. Venues and hotels powered by clean energy can emit significantly fewer emissions than buildings powered primarily by fossil fuels. The net emissions savings from accommodations alone may be as much as 100 kilograms per night, per room (DEFRA). Over a seven day trip for 50 people this can add up to 30 metric tons avoided. That’s equal to keeping 70 barrels of oil in the ground.
Opting for lowest carbon transportation options also makes a notable difference. Ideally, switch to less carbon intensive options like trains. This can reduce total emissions for a five day trip by 28-44% per guest (Responsible Travel). Using electric vehicles for ground transfers also saves carbon, where options exist. Why? A zero emissions vehicle emits three times less carbon in its lifetime than the average new conventional car (Carbon Brief).
TOOL: Still need to book a flight? Consider taking advantage of flight search tools like Google Flights, Lite Flights, Kayak.com, and Skyscanner which filter and sort searches based on lowest emissions options. Your travel manager may be able to offer similar solutions for multiple bookings.
Event and trip organizers can also reduce impacts by adapting meals to include more plants. Shifting away from meat-heavy, beef-forward diets to instead feature:
- Lighter meats like chicken can reduce emissions from food by 35%
- Fish can reduce emissions from food by 46%
- Vegetarian and dairy options can reduce emissions from food by 47%
- Vegan alternatives can reduce emissions from food by 60% (Source)
Shifting away from meat-heavy menus in any degree for a seven-day excursion for 50 people would save one to 1.5 metric tons of CO2e. That’s equal to the benefit of planting nearly two acres of forest.
TOOL: Explore the varied carbon impacts of different foods.
Have a sustainable travel tip? Please leave a comment!