Oxford Martin School logo

Which form of transport has the smallest carbon footprint?

How can individuals reduce their emissions from transport.

This article was first published in 2020. It was updated in 2023 with more recent data.

Transport accounts for around one-quarter of global carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions from energy. 1 In some countries – often richer countries with populations that travel often – transport can be one of the largest segments of an individual’s carbon footprint.

If you need to travel – either locally or abroad – what is the lowest-carbon way to do so?

In the chart here we see the comparison of travel modes by their carbon footprint. These are measured by the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per person to travel one kilometer .

This data comes from the UK Government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. It’s the emission factors used by companies to quantify and report their emissions. While the overall rankings of transport modes will probably be the same, there may be some differences across countries based on their own electricity mix, vehicle stock, and public transport network.

Greenhouse gases are measured in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO 2 eq), and they account for non-CO 2 greenhouse gases and the increased warming effects of aviation emissions at high altitudes. 2

Walk, bike or take the train for the lowest footprint

Over short to medium distances, walking or cycling are nearly always the lowest carbon way to travel. While they’re not in the chart, the carbon footprint of cycling one kilometer is usually in the range of 16 to 50 grams CO 2 eq per km depending on how efficiently you cycle and what you eat. 3

Using a bike instead of a car for short trips would reduce your travel emissions by around 75%.

If you can’t walk or cycle, then public transport is usually your best option. Trains are particularly low-carbon ways to travel. Taking a train instead of a car for medium-length distances would cut your emissions by around 80%. 4 Using a train instead of a domestic flight would reduce your emissions by around 86%. 5

In fact, if you If you took the Eurostar in France instead of a short-haul flight, you’d cut your journey’s footprint by around 97%. 6

What if you can’t walk or cycle, and have no public transport links?

If none of the above are options, what can you do?

Driving an electric vehicle (EV) is your best mode of private transport. It emits less than a petrol or diesel car, even in countries where the electricity mix is fairly high-carbon. Of course, powering it from low-carbon grid offers the greatest benefits.

The chart above only considers emissions of EV during its use phase – when you’re driving it. It doesn’t include emissions from the manufacturing of the car. There have been concerns that when we account for the energy needed to produce the battery, an EV is actually worse for the climate than a petrol car. This is not true – while an EV does have higher emissions during its production, it quickly ‘pays back’ once you start driving it. 7

Next best is a plug-in hybrid car.

Then, where you take a petrol car or fly depends on the distance. For journeys less than 1000 kilometers, flying has a higher carbon footprint than a medium-sized car. For longer journeys, flying would actually have a slightly lower carbon footprint per kilometer than driving alone over the same distance.

Let’s say you were to drive from Edinburgh to London, which is a distance of around 500 kilometers. You’d emit close to 85 kilograms CO 2 eq. 8 If you were to fly, this would be 123 kilograms – an increase of almost one-third. 9

Some general takeaways on how you can reduce the carbon footprint of travel:

  • Walk, cycle or run when possible – this comes with many other benefits such as lower local air pollution and better health;
  • Trains are nearly always the winning option over moderate-to-long distances;
  • If travelling internationally, going by train or boat is lower-carbon than flying;
  • Electric vehicles are nearly always lower-carbon than petrol or diesel cars. The reductions are greatest for countries with a cleaner electricity mix;
  • If travelling domestically, driving – even if it’s alone – is usually better than flying;
  • Car-sharing will massively reduce your footprint – it also helps to reduce local air pollution and congestion.

Appendix: Why is the carbon footprint per kilometer higher for domestic flight than long-haul flights?

You will notice that the CO 2 emissions per passenger-kilometer are higher for domestic flights than short-haul international flights; and long-haul flights are slightly lower still. Why is this the case?

In its report on the CO 2 Emissions from Commercial Aviation , the International Council on Clean Transportation provides a nice breakdown of how the carbon intensity (grams CO 2 emitted per passenger kilometer) varies depending on flight distance. 10

This chart is shown here – with carbon intensity given as the red line. It shows that at very short flight distances (less than 1,000 km), the carbon intensity is very high; it falls with distance until around 1,500 to 2,000 km; then levels out and changes very little with  increasing  distance.

This is because take-off requires much more energy input than the ‘cruise’ phase of a flight. So, for very short flights, this extra fuel needed for take-off is large compared to the more efficient cruise phase of the journey. The ICCT also notes that often less fuel-efficient  planes are used for the shortest flights.


The IEA  looks at CO 2  emissions  from energy production alone – in 2018 it reported 33.5 billion tonnes of energy-related CO 2  [hence, transport accounted for 8 billion / 33.5 billion = 24% of energy-related emissions.

Aviation creates a number of complex atmospheric reactions at altitude – such as vapour contrails – which create an enhanced warming effect. In the UK’s Greenhouse gas methodology paper , a ‘multiplier’ of 1.9 is applied to aviation emissions to account for this. This is reflected in the CO 2 eq factors provided in this analysis.

Researchers – David Lee et al. (2020) – estimate that aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global CO 2 emissions, but 3.5% of radiative forcing/warming due to these altitude effects.

Lee, D. S., Fahey, D. W., Skowron, A., Allen, M. R., Burkhardt, U., Chen, Q., ... & Gettelman, A. (2020). The contribution of global aviation to anthropogenic climate forcing for 2000 to 2018 .  Atmospheric Environment , 117834.

Finding a figure for the carbon footprint of cycling seems like it should be straightforward, but it can vary quite a lot. It depends on a number of factors: what size you are (bigger people tend to burn more energy cycling); how fit you are (fitter people are more efficient); the type of bike you’re pedalling; and what you eat (if you eat a primarily plant-based diet, the emissions are likely to be lower than if you get most of your calories from cheeseburgers and milk). People often also raise the question of whether you actually eat more if you cycle to work rather than driving i.e. whether those calories are actually ‘additional’ to your normal diet.

Estimates on the footprint of cycling therefore vary. Some estimates put this figure at around 16 grams CO 2 e per kilometer based on the average European diet. In his book ‘ How bad are bananas: the carbon footprint of everything ’, Mike Berners-Lee estimates the footprint based on specific food types. He estimates 25 grams CO 2 e when powered by bananas; 43 grams CO 2 e from cereal and cow’s milk; 190 grams CO 2 e from bacon; or as high as 310 grams CO 2 e if powered exclusively by cheeseburgers.

National rail emits around 35 grams per kilometer. The average petrol car emits 170 grams. So the footprint of taking the train is around 20% of taking a car: [ 35 / 170 * 100 = 20%].

National rail emits around 35 grams per kilometer. A domestic flight emits 246 grams. So the footprint of taking the train is around 14% of a flight: [ 35 / 246 * 100 = 14%].

Taking the Eurostar emits around 4 grams of CO 2 per passenger kilometer, compared to 154 grams from a short-haul flight. So the footprint of  Eurostar is around 4% of a  flight: [ 4 / 154 * 100 = 3%].

The ‘carbon payback time’ for an average driver is around 2 years.

An average petrol car emits 170 grams per kilometer. Multiply this by 500, and we get 85,000 grams (which is 85 kilograms).

A domestic flight emits 246 grams per kilometer. Multiply this by 500, and we get 123,000 grams (which is 123 kilograms).

Graver, B., Zhang, K. & Rutherford, D. (2018). CO2 emissions from commercial aviation, 2018 . International Council on Clean Transportation.

Cite this work

Our articles and data visualizations rely on work from many different people and organizations. When citing this article, please also cite the underlying data sources. This article can be cited as:

BibTeX citation

Reuse this work freely

All visualizations, data, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license . You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited.

The data produced by third parties and made available by Our World in Data is subject to the license terms from the original third-party authors. We will always indicate the original source of the data in our documentation, so you should always check the license of any such third-party data before use and redistribution.

All of our charts can be embedded in any site.

Our World in Data is free and accessible for everyone.

Help us do this work by making a donation.

Carbon offsetting: How to calculate your carbon footprint when you travel

Katie Genter

Editor's Note

Whether at home or on a trip, your actions consume energy and create carbon emissions.

While you may already know that you can calculate your emissions for everyday activities, you might not realize that you can also calculate them for a specific trip or event.

To help you better understand the process, we've created this guide focusing on carbon emissions from travel. In addition to delving into the details of how to calculate your footprint for lodging and various modes of transportation, we'll take a closer look at what purchasing an offset entails, including which services are the most reputable.

Sign up for our daily newsletter for more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox.

How to calculate the carbon footprint of a trip

carbon footprint for travel

Tourism creates about 8% of the world's carbon emissions, according to Sustainable Travel International , a nonprofit organization that works with travelers, businesses and destinations to apply innovative conservation solutions to tourism.

You can calculate your emissions for both everyday life and trips using a carbon footprint calculator. For travel, these calculators consider the average carbon emissions of various travel types. Sustainable Travel International's calculator, for example, assumes that a passenger will emit 0.14 to 0.55 kilograms (0.31 to 1.21 pounds) of carbon emissions per kilometer (which equals a little more than half a mile) flown, depending on cabin class and flight distance.

But aircraft type and loads also play a role. For other types of transportation, fuel type is important, too. Some calculators even include emissions from vehicle manufacturing, which may increase based on the vehicle's age.

In short, different calculators will yield different results based on their underlying assumptions. As such, it's worth checking out several different options when figuring out your emissions.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has a carbon footprint calculator , but it unfortunately only calculates your footprint in three household areas: home energy, transportation and waste. So, although this calculator can help you determine your household's carbon emissions, it won't help you calculate your emissions from travel.

carbon footprint for travel

If you want to calculate your annual household and travel emissions all at once, Conservation International, a nonprofit organization that focuses on finding solutions to environmental issues, has a carbon footprint calculator that you may want to try.

carbon footprint for travel

Conservation International's calculator also shows the math behind its results. So, you could use these numbers (admittedly based on energy use data from 2013 and 2015) to calculate your travel emissions separately from your household emissions.

The calculator assumes one night in an accommodation produces about 0.0383 metric tons of carbon emissions per occupied room. For passenger transport, it assumes the following:

  • Flights less than 300 miles: 0.00025 metric tons of carbon emissions are produced per passenger mile.
  • Flights of 300 to 2,299 miles: 0.00014 metric tons of carbon emissions are produced per passenger mile.
  • Flights of 2,300 miles or more: 0.00017 metric tons of carbon emissions are produced per passenger mile.
  • Intercity rail: 0.00014 metric tons of carbon emissions are produced per passenger mile.
  • Commuter rail: 0.00017 metric tons of carbon emissions are produced per passenger mile.
  • Subway, metro and trams: 0.00012 metric tons of carbon emissions are produced per passenger mile.
  • Bus: 0.00006 metric tons of carbon emissions are produced per passenger mile.

Related: This travel company will plant trees for every flight and hotel room booked

Other calculators can help you determine your emissions from a specific flight in more detail.

For example, Atmosfair's calculator totals your flight emissions based on route, cabin and aircraft type. However, this calculator can be tedious to use if you have a lot of flights to offset, as it only lets you calculate one at a time.

carbon footprint for travel

If you're traveling by boat or car, you may want to use Sustainable Travel International's calculator since most other travel calculators don't specifically consider these modes of transportation. And if you want to calculate your carbon emissions based on miles flown, BlueSkyModel's air-mile model provides a simple calculation broken down by airline, aircraft and plane manufacturer.

carbon footprint for travel

There's also the Toitu Envirocare Household Calculator . This calculator's assumptions are based on average emissions in New Zealand , so the calculator will be most accurate when traveling in New Zealand. But you can use the calculator to estimate emissions from various lodging types, vehicles, public transport and flights in other places, too. As such, it may still be worth using when traveling outside New Zealand, especially if you tend to stay at less conventional lodging options.

Related: What your favorite airlines and hotels are doing to fight climate change

Which carbon footprint calculator should you use?

You should use the carbon footprint calculator or method that makes sense for your plans and that will be easiest for you to do the math with.

For example, Atmosfair's calculator is likely the most accurate for flights out of all the calculators discussed, but I use BlueSkyModel's air-mile model since it allows me to quickly determine my carbon emissions for all of the flights I take each year based on the mileage I've flown.

While I haven't tried offsetting carbon emissions from hotel stays, if I did, I'd likely use a calculator that walks me through the math used to determine its results, such as the one offered by Conservation International or the Toitu Envirocare Household Calculator.

After all, you don't have to calculate your carbon emissions exactly for your offset to make a difference.

How to offset your carbon footprint from traveling

carbon footprint for travel

Regardless of which carbon emissions calculator or calculation method you use, know that you don't have to buy carbon offsets through the calculator. You can opt to purchase carbon offsets via your chosen calculator, of course, but there are other options available, too.

Once I know the total amount of metric tons of carbon emissions that I want to offset, I like to buy them separately through an independent third-party organization that lists certified carbon offsetting projects that meet rigorous standards for monitoring, reporting, verification and certification. Abiding by these standards ensures the projects recommended are ones that will have the most impact once implemented.

Most offset programs create their own standards to define the requirements for projects within their program. However, there are some international standards to consider, such as the Verified Carbon Standard developed by the Climate Group and the International Emissions Trading Association.

Even after you find a standard that you like, it can be difficult to figure out how to support projects that follow that standard as an individual consumer. That's why I recommend turning to a third-party organization that lists certified projects that meet specific standards. Three highly regarded organizations that provide such listings are Gold Standard , Green-e and Climate Action Reserve .

You can browse carbon offsetting projects on each organization's website. However, Gold Standard makes it easy to donate to a particular project on their website , while Green-e and Climate Action Reserve refer you to individual projects.

Some airlines also allow you to offset carbon emissions from flights . Many only facilitate carbon offsetting when you purchase a ticket, while others will allow you to offset any flight (including on routes the airline doesn't operate). A few airlines, including British Airways and JetBlue Airways , even pay to offset at least some of their flights. So if you fly with an airline frequently, it may be worth looking into the carbon offsetting options available through your carrier.

While you can offset your carbon emissions after each flight, I like to do it in bulk for all of my flights at the end of each year. Once I've determined how many miles I flew, I'll buy carbon offsets through Gold Standard, which are coded as gifts and donations on my credit card statements.

But remember, not all carbon offsets are categorized this way by credit card companies. When I purchased lump sum carbon offsets through Cathay Pacific's Fly Greener program back in 2019, my purchase coded as airfare. So, be sure to factor where you're buying your carbon offsets into your payment strategy.

Related: How one travel platform enables travelers to book carbon offset trips

Reducing vs. offsetting emissions

carbon footprint for travel

Offsetting your carbon emissions from a trip is great, but reducing your carbon footprint is even better.

For example, consider traveling by train or bus instead of by plane for shorter distances. Traveling by intercity rail typically produces about half of a short-haul flight's carbon emissions per passenger mile, based on Conservation International's calculator. Buses are even more environmentally friendly, commonly generating just a quarter of a short-haul flight's carbon emissions per passenger mile, according to Conservation International's calculator.

Or, instead of taking a trip around the world, opt for a vacation close to home that requires less use of transportation.

You don't need to avoid long trips to be more environmentally conscious, though.

If flying to your destination, choose a nonstop route on a fuel-efficient aircraft. Once in your chosen location, pick a hybrid or electric rental car (instead of a regular vehicle) to get around.

Also consider staying at a hotel that's committed to sustainable practices — or, at the very least, keep your use of air conditioning in your hotel room to a minimum. You might even want to try eating vegan or vegetarian meals during your trip. After all, beef, lamb and mutton all have large carbon footprints compared to plant-based proteins due to the amount of cleared land required to raise them, methane they produce as they digest food and animal feed they consume, among other factors.

Related: How train travel can be good for the environment

Bottom line

When it comes to leisure travel, many travelers may find themselves hesitant to trade their dream vacation for a more environmentally friendly alternative.

While a trip to a nearby Caribbean country can be full of fun, few would argue it rivals a trip to the far-flung Maldives . Similarly, many would find it hard to bypass a comfortable business-class seat in favor of flying in the more eco-friendly economy cabin .

You don't have to feel guilty about enjoying that dream getaway in style, so long as you take a closer look at how you can lessen your impact on the environment. By offsetting your carbon emissions and considering other ways to reduce your carbon footprint when you travel, you can do your part to lessen the harm being done to our planet.

Think of the former as a tax you're choosing to pay to help offset the effects of your travels.

  • Share full article

carbon footprint for travel

How to Travel More Sustainably

Don’t skimp on doing your own research, and be aware that ‘green’ certificates aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be.

Credit... Gabriel Alcala

Supported by

By Paige McClanahan

  • April 22, 2021

So you’re vaccinated and eager to — finally — plan a real summer vacation after a rough year, but you don’t want to add to the problems you might have read about: overcrowding, climate change, unfair working conditions in the tourism industry. What’s a thoughtful traveler to do?

For those who want to travel responsibly, it comes down to this: You, the traveler, have to do your homework.

Looking for a hotel or tour operator that has earned a sustainability label might seem like a good place to start, but the reality isn’t so simple. There are around 180 certification labels floating around in the tourism industry, each purporting to certify the green credentials of a hotel, restaurant, tour operator or even a destination. And while some of those labels are well enforced, others might better be described as greenwashing — when a company portrays itself as an environmental steward, but its actions don’t match the hype.

“The range is enormous — from rigorous, impartial and excellent to, frankly, poor,” said Randy Durband, the chief executive of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council , a nonprofit organization that establishes and manages global standards for sustainable travel. “We strongly believe in the value of third-party certification, when it’s done right,” Mr. Durband added. “But the way the word ‘certification’ is used in tourism is out of control.”

Still, while the labels might be all over the map, many businesses are waking up to the importance of improving their environmental and social performance, said Andrea Nicholas, the chief executive of Green Tourism , an Edinburgh-based certification body with more than 2,500 members. The pandemic has brought the concept of sustainable tourism forward by five to 10 years, she said. Before, she added, many businesses saw sustainability as an “add-on.”

“What we’re seeing now, from the interest we’re getting, is that it’s a must-have,” she said.

There are some promising signs that consumers, too, are waking up to the consequences of their vacations. More than two-thirds of respondents to a recent seven-country global survey for American Express Travel said that they “are trying to be more aware of sustainability-friendly travel brands to support.” Another poll, this one for the digital travel company Booking.com, found that 69 percent of the more than 20,000 respondents “expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options.”

What does “sustainable travel” mean, anyway?

Given the diversity of destinations and contexts that a traveler might encounter, there’s no universal answer to what sustainable travel means. A hotel’s water efficiency is a lot more important along Spain’s dry Mediterranean coastline than in rain-soaked western Scotland, for instance.

But experts say that the concept is about a lot more than just reusing the towels in your hotel room or buying a carbon offset for your flight, although those are good places to start.

Sustainability is also about the wages and working conditions of the people who are waiting tables on your cruise ship or schlepping your bag up a trail; it’s about the additional pressure you might be putting on an already-crowded city , heritage site or natural area ; it’s about whether your hotel buys its produce from a farm down the road or from a supplier on the other side of the world, or whether the money you spend goes into the community you’re visiting — or into the distant account of a multinational.

“What you need to do is marry the corporate social responsibility with an informed tourist consumer who knows what they’re asking for, and then demands it,” said Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, an adjunct senior lecturer in tourism at the University of South Australia. She listed some questions that travelers should ask themselves before they take their next trip: How can I travel in an off-peak time? How can I go to places that aren’t overcrowded? How can I ensure that the money I spend ends up in the local economy?

Johannah Christensen, a nonprofit executive and longtime concerned traveler, says that she always looks for some sort of reliable certification when she books a block of hotel rooms for an annual professional event. The Green Key label — a certification program that is headquartered in Copenhagen, where Ms. Christensen lives — is one that she has used in the past, but she is always sure to do some digging on her own. (This 2016 guide to some of the major tourism certifications can be a good starting point.)

“You can look for those green check marks, but understand what’s implied in them,” she said. “What does the hotel actually have to do to earn it? Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

carbon footprint for travel

How to do your homework

Asking questions — both while you’re traveling and, more important, before you book — is one of the most powerful things that travelers can do, said Gregory Miller, the executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsible Travel . He recommends people start by looking closely at the websites of the tour operators, hotels and destinations that they’re considering. If they don’t find any language about sustainability, “that should be a flag,” he said.

Beyond that, he suggests that travelers check his organization’s list of responsible travel tips , which include recommendations like hiring local guides, asking permission before taking photos of people, staying on designated trails in natural areas and thinking twice about handing out money to children. While they’re traveling, Dr. Miller said, people shouldn’t be afraid to ask difficult questions of their service providers, or to call out waste or abuse when they see it — whether directly to a manager or in an online review.

“Certification can be a tool in the toolbox, but don’t be limited by that,” Dr. Miller said. “It’s about choices, and travelers do have the choice.”

Susanne Etti, the environmental impact specialist at Intrepid Travel , a global tour operator based in Australia, had other tips for travelers. She said they could start by checking the list of the more than 230 travel organizations that have joined the Tourism Declares initiative, members of which have pledged to publish a climate action plan and cut their carbon emissions.

Another reliable indicator, she said, is whether a company has been classified as a “B Corporation” — a rigorous sustainability standard that’s not limited to the tourism industry. Her company, Intrepid, has achieved the distinction, as have the apparel company Patagonia and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s. The B Corporation website lists some three dozen companies in the “travel and leisure” sector — from a paddle sports company in Hawaii to an Ecuadorean tour bus operator. A number of other tourism businesses are listed under “hospitality,” including Taos Ski Valley and Orlando-based Legacy Vacation Resorts.

Dr. Etti also shared some of the advice that she follows in her own travels. “When you fly, make it count,” she said, adding that, before the pandemic, when she would travel from her current home in Australia to her native Germany, she would do the long-haul flight, but then choose trains or other less-polluting ways to get around Europe, even when cheap short-haul flights were readily available.

Dr. Etti also recommended that travelers learn to slow down. “Stay in one location longer,” she said, “to really understand how life works in that community.”

Rethinking what travel means

Many travelers also need a shift in mind-set, said Dominique Callimanopulos, the head of Elevate Destinations , an international tour operator based in Massachusetts that has won a number of awards for its commitment to sustainability. People should learn to see their travels as an opportunity for exchange with a host community rather than a simple consumer transaction. Ms. Callimanopulos said that even her sustainability-inclined clientele rarely do their homework: She has received more questions about the availability of hair dryers than about the company’s environmental or social practices.

“People can make a shift from thinking just about what their personal experience is going to be to looking at the impact of their experience on the ground, on the destination and on the community,” she said.

Lindblad Expeditions , which operates adventure cruises in destinations like Alaska, the Antarctic and the South Pacific, has also won awards for its approach to sustainability and for giving back to the communities it visits. Sven-Olof Lindblad, the company’s chief executive, said that he continues to see people spending up to $40,000 on an Antarctic cruise without doing any research on the practices of the company offering the trip.

“You wouldn’t just buy a car from an ad without understanding what it was and how it compared,” he said. “I’m absolutely amazed at how little diligence people sometimes do in relationship to travel.”

Mr. Lindblad recommended that, in addition to doing their own research, travelers could speak to a travel adviser or travel agent who can help them dig for answers that might not be readily available on a company’s website.

“When people choose to travel, they should really understand what they’re getting into,” he said, “because there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in this business.”

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram , Twitter and Facebook . And sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places list for 2021 .

Explore Our Style Coverage

The latest in fashion, trends, love and more..

A $275 Bus Ticket to the Hamptons:  After a decade of flying passengers to eastern Long Island, Blade, a helicopter charter company, is getting into the luxury coach business .

A New Fitness Craze:  Hyrox, a sporting event founded in Germany, has earned a large following for its high-profile races with big drama .

Tremaine Emory’s Scars:  Streetwear’s Black history raconteur survived Kanye, Supreme and a near-death experience. But can he survive the internet ?

N.F.L. Draft’s Style Winners:  The next class of football stars has done some fashion homework , but the event was pretty tame compared with the N.B.A. draft.

Normcore Clothes on Sweaty Bodies: Despite having a buzzy costume designer, the clothes in “Challengers” — a new film about love, lust and tennis — are largely forgettable. Which may be the point .


Warming Trends

Calculating your vacation’s carbon footprint, one travel mode at a time, a new tool says trains are almost always greener than planes. also, climate anxiety in the u.k., the environmental destruction of guam, and smaller, slower, less pollinating butterflies..

Katelyn Weisbrod

Share this article

A plane takes off after sunset from Geneva Airport in Geneva on July 18, 2019. Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Warming Trends: A Comedy With Solar Themes, a Greener Cryptocurrency and the Underestimated Climate Supermajority

Josh Brener (right) plays solar panel salesman Sid in the new movie "Bromates." Courtesy of Quiver Distribution

Warming Trends: Video Gamers Helping the Climate, a Big Advance for Lab-Grown Meat and Belabored Decisions May Bring Better Results, If Not More Happiness

Video gamers play at the 24th Electronic Expo, or E3 2018, in Los Angeles, California on June 12, 2018. Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Warming Trends: Climate Insomnia, the Decline of Alpine Bumblebees and Cycling like the Dutch and the Danes

A resident alpine bumblebee species, Bombus kirbiellus, feasts on a flower in an alpine environment. Credit: Candace Galen

A Calculator To Plan Climate Friendly Travel

Planning a vacation? A new tool lets you calculate the carbon cost of your trip, taking into consideration distance traveled, mode of transportation and accommodation type. 

Created by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, the Travel and Climate tool lets a user put in where they are, where they’re going, how many are traveling and for how long. The tool tells users the carbon impact of each of their options, whether they travel by train, bus, gas-powered car, electric car or plane, and whether they stay in a tent, hostel or hotel.

Flying tends to be the least climate friendly way to reach a destination because of the significant carbon emitted by airplanes. Driving a car is often less carbon intensive than flying, especially if the car is electric. Trains are often the best choice, according to the tool, especially in Europe where they are powered by electricity. 

Jörgen Larsson , who is a researcher in sustainable consumption at Chalmers and one of the researchers who helped create the tool, said one way he likes to travel sustainably is train-bike tourism. This summer, he took a night train from his home in Gothenburg to northern Norway, where he biked 30 to 40 miles every day on a foldable bike to see the sights.

This story is funded by readers like you.

Our nonprofit newsroom provides award-winning climate coverage free of charge and advertising. We rely on donations from readers like you to keep going. Please donate now to support our work.

Although the tool is backed with European data, users can insert destinations from around the world, but Larsson cautions that calculations in places like the United States may be less accurate. He hopes to improve the tool with data from the U.S. and Canada. 

Larsson hopes that people who use this tool will consider why they want to travel. Is it because they want to do a certain activity or see a certain place? Or is it more about spending time with friends and family away from your normal environment? 

“If that is your deeper goal with your vacation, then you can find lots of climate friendly options,” Larsson said. “You don’t have to fly long distances in order to be with your friends and family. You can take public transportation on your way to some place and get that fulfillment.”

The Motivating Power of Climate Anxiety

Only a small percentage of people in the United Kingdom experience climate anxiety, a new study found, but the condition can be a motivator for people to take action on global warming.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Bath, surveyed about 1,300 adults in the U.K. in 2020 and again in 2022. About 80 percent of respondents reported they worry about climate change, but most did not elevate that worry to anxiety, where the concern affects their emotions and daily functioning. 

But, researchers found that those who do experience climate anxiety are more likely to take action in their lives to reduce their carbon footprint, like cutting waste and consumption.

“Maybe there’s a certain level of climate anxiety which is quite an adaptive response,” said Lorraine Whitmarsh, the study’s lead author and an environmental psychologist at the University of Bath. “Because it does seem to actually promote positive action on climate change.”

The survey also found climate anxiety is predicted more by a respondents’ media consumption than by whether they had first-hand experience with a climate disaster. Whitmarsh suspects this is because media coverage tends to highlight the most dramatic effects of climate change.

She said that the best way to communicate the gravity of climate change is not just to discuss its terrible effects, but also “to show that there are things you can do to tackle that risk, to increase that sense of efficacy to reduce harm,” Whitmarsh said. “So I think there is an important role for media in not just telling people about climate change, but also telling people there are solutions.”

‘Outsource the Suffering’

A new collection of essays, speeches, eulogies and poems tell a story of heartbreak and grief on Guam, in the Pacific, bearing witness to loss in the natural world. 

Julian Aguon, a writer and human rights lawyer, delves into the climate and justice issues arising from the militarization of Guam, while reflecting on his own coming of age experience as an Indigenous Chamorro person growing up on the U.S. island territory in his new book, “No Country for Eight Spot Butterflies” out this month. Guam—about 4,000 miles west of Hawaii—is strategically located for the U.S. military and is home to two, soon to be three, bases and thousands of military personnel. Much military development is underway on the island, including a new machine gun practice range in the heart of an ecologically sensitive forest that supports many native species found nowhere else in the world, including the Mariana eight-spot butterfly.

Inside Climate News recently discussed the book with Aguon. This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Tell me about this new book, and why did you want to write it?

It’s sort of many things at once. It sort of breaks the rules when it comes to form for sure. It’s like essays that were inspired by old notes collected from old journals that I have done since even my teenage years, but also commencement speeches, eulogies and shorter vignettes, sort of ala Sandra Cisneros’ “House on Mango Street.” It’s just a total hodge podge, I think a lovely mess, but honestly, I just thought that I had really specific things to say, and they didn’t lend themselves to one neat categorizable thing. So I was lucky enough to find a publisher who was willing to crash every party at once.

What does the title of your book mean, “No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies”?

The Mariana eight-spot butterfly is one of several endemic endangered species that are being directly threatened because the U.S. military is building a massive, multipurpose 59-acre machine gun range, because they need this machine gun range. So because of that claimed need, they have already begun to destroy limestone forest and these are forests that took thousands of years to evolve. These are really specific environments, and they are home to the eight-spot butterfly. And so when I wrote “No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies,” I’m trying to point out the just incredible beauty of a species being smashed and obliterated by the U.S. war machine. It is like bearing witness to this smashing. 

We’re hiring!

Please take a look at the new openings in our newsroom.

How is your perspective informed and shaped by being a native of Guam, and what should mainland Americans know about this Pacific island? 

The sort of spreading canopy of militarization is not only here, but it’s palpable, it’s felt in the air that we breathe. 

Americans think that they’re gearing up for a war. There’s always the rhetorical sort of going to war, sort of like “rallying the troops” rhetoric that we’re seeing, even at the congressional level, sometimes at the executive branch. But there’s actually already a war that is happening in real time if you are part of a frontline community. As America is increasingly concerned with China’s rising influence in the Asia-Pacific Theater, what’s happening on the ground is they are expanding their military footprint. They are building a brand new Marine Corps base, the first one built since the ‘50s anywhere in this country. You can see the military transport vehicles both on the ground and in the waters. You see, the war is already here. 

It’s like climate change. This is not a future crisis. It’s a current crisis. It’s happening now. That’s what happens sometimes in America. This country likes to go to war, but it likes to outsource the suffering. The suffering is happening on the ground in communities so far away. 

Smaller, Slower and Less Effective

Warmer temperatures can lead to smaller body sizes for insects. A new study on a common butterfly species shows that smaller sized individuals also carry less pollen, which could be a problem for food crops that rely on pollinators. 

Researchers from the University of British Columbia raised cabbage white butterflies in a laboratory setting and found that those raised in warmer temperatures were smaller than those in colder temperatures. They also found the smaller butterflies with their smaller wings could not fly as far or as fast as larger butterflies. 

Then, the researchers looked at cabbage whites in the wild and found that individuals similar in size to the small, warm-raised butterflies carried less pollen from fewer different species of plants than larger individuals. 

Pollinators like butterflies play an important role in spreading pollen to about 35 percent of the world’s agricultural crops. The researchers argue that warming temperatures driven by climate change could make pollinators smaller, slower and less effective at transporting pollen.  

“There’s a bit of a concern that maybe plants will be not able to get as much pollen as they need to make all their fruits,” said study co-author Michelle Tseng, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. “But we don’t know for sure yet if that is the case.” Further study is needed to understand if this phenomenon is widespread enough to cause issues for agriculture, she said. 

Katelyn Weisbrod

Katelyn Weisbrod

Audience director.

Katelyn Weisbrod is the former Audience Director at Inside Climate News based in Minnesota. She previously wrote ICN’s weekly Warming Trends column highlighting climate-related studies, innovations, books, cultural events and other developments from the global warming frontier. She joined the team in January 2020 after graduating from the University of Iowa with Bachelor’s degrees in journalism and environmental science. Katelyn previously reported from Kerala, India, as a Pulitzer Center student fellow, and worked for over four years at the University of Iowa’s student newspaper, The Daily Iowan.

  • @katelyn_eliz


We deliver climate news to your inbox like nobody else. Every day or once a week, our original stories and digest of the web's top headlines deliver the full story, for free.

  • Inside Clean Energy
  • Today's Climate
  • Breaking News
  • I agree to the terms of service and privacy policy .

Josh Brener (right) plays solar panel salesman Sid in the new movie "Bromates." Courtesy of Quiver Distribution

By Katelyn Weisbrod

Video gamers play at the 24th Electronic Expo, or E3 2018, in Los Angeles, California on June 12, 2018. Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Most Popular

At Raccoon Point, in the Big Cypress National Preserve, oil was detected in 1978. Production began in 1981, and the field was expanded in 1992. Credit: National Parks Conservation Association/LightHawk

Oil Drilling Has Endured in the Everglades for Decades. Now, the Miccosukee Tribe Has a Plan to Stop It

By amy green.

The Shell plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania takes ethane and heats it to extremely high temperatures, “cracking” the molecular bonds holding it together to form ethylene and polyethylene pellets called nurdles. Credit: Mark Dixon/CC BY 2.0 Deed

A Plastics Plant Promised Pennsylvania Prosperity, but to Some Residents It’s Become a ‘Shockingly Bad’ Neighbor

By kiley bense.

Washington's carbon tax measure fails

Washington State Voters Reject Nation's First Carbon Tax

By marianne lavelle, florida in 50 years: study says land conservation can buffer destructive force of climate change.

A new report by scientists at four major Florida universities projects that a new wildlife corridor, if completed, will allow wildlife to survive in the coming decades and make climate change less destructive to humans.

By Bill Kearney, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Increasingly Frequent Ocean Heat Waves Trigger Mass Die-Offs of Sealife, and Grief in Marine Scientists

Air pollution could potentially exacerbate menopause symptoms, study says.

A Florida panther uses a wildlife crossing that gives animals a path under a highway in an area west of Lake Okeechobee. The crossing and others like it allows animals to avoid dangerous roadways and helps them travel to wilderness areas that would otherwise be fragmented into isolated pockets. Credit: Carlton Ward Jr/CarltonWard.com

Keep Environmental Journalism Alive

ICN provides award-winning climate coverage free of charge and advertising. We rely on donations from readers like you to keep going.


Big data reveals true climate impact of worldwide air travel

Global aviations emissions reporting requirements under the unfcc treaty don't show the real impact of air travel.

For the first time ever, researchers have harnessed the power of big data to calculate the per-country greenhouse gas emissions from aviation for 197 countries covered by an international treaty on climate change.

When countries signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty, high-income countries were required to report their aviation-related emissions. But 151 middle and lower income countries, including China and India, were not required to report these emissions, although they could do so voluntarily.

This matters because the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change relies on country reports of emissions during negotiations on country-specific emissions cuts.

"Our work fills the reporting gaps, so that this can inform policy and hopefully improve future negotiations," says Jan Klenner, a PhD candidate at NTNU's Industrial Ecology Programme and the first author of the new article, which was recently published in Environmental Research Letters.

The new data show that countries such as China, for example, which did not report its 2019 aviation-related emissions, was second only to the United States when it came to total aviation-related emissions.

"Now we have a much clearer picture of aviation emissions per country, including previously unreported emissions, which tells you something about how we can go about reducing them," said Helene Muri, a research professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's Industrial Ecology Programme. Muri was one of Klenner's supervisors and a co-author of the paper.

Big surprises -- or not

As might be expected, the United States is at the top of the list of emitters when it comes to the total sum of aviation emissions for both international and domestic flights.

"When we looked at how emissions are distributed per capita, we could see that economic well-being leads to more aviation activity," Klenner said.

That analysis also showed that wealthy Norway, with just 5.5 million people, was third place overall, just behind the US and Australia, when domestic emissions were calculated on a per-capita basis.

Klenner tested the model he developed for this analysis by using data from Norway. He published a paper reporting those results in 2022.

You might think that Norway's geography -- a long, narrow country with lots of mountains and a sparsely populated northern area -- would be the culprit behind the numbers. But Klenner's 2022 analysis showed that fully 50 per cent of Norway's domestic flights were between the country's major cities, Oslo, Trondheim, Stavanger, Bergen and Tromsø.

"The per person emissions in Norway were incredibly high," Muri, who also co-authored that paper, said. "With this data set we can confirm that from a Norwegian perspective we have a lot of work to do, because we are third in the world when it comes to emissions per person from domestic emissions."

A role for big data

Anders Hammer Strømman, a professor at NTNU's Industrial Ecology Programme and Klenner's co-supervisor, said one important aspect of the study is that it shows how big data can be used to help in regulating climate emissions. Strømman was also a co-author of the new paper.

"I think it very nicely illustrates the potential in this type of work, where we have previously relied on statistical offices and reporting loops that can take a year or more to get this kind of information," he said. "This model allows us to do instant emissions modeling -- we can calculate the emissions from global aviation as it happens."

The model, called AviTeam, is the first to provide information for the 45 lesser-developed countries that have never inventoried their greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. Strømman says the model provides these countries with information that might be otherwise difficult or impossible for them to collect.

The abillity to calculate nearly real-time aviation emissions could also provide an important tool as the industry makes changes to de-carbonize.

"In the transition where we're talking about the introduction of new fuels and new technologies, this type of big data allows us to identify those types of corridors or operations where it makes sense to test those strategies first," Strømman said.

  • Energy Policy
  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Issues
  • Environmental Policies
  • World Development
  • Surveillance
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Air pollution
  • Polyethylene
  • Geologic temperature record
  • Automobile emissions control
  • Consensus of scientists regarding global warming
  • Sulfur hexafluoride

Story Source:

Materials provided by Norwegian University of Science and Technology . Original written by Nancy Bazilchuk. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Jan Klenner, Helene Muri, Anders H Strømman. Domestic and international aviation emission inventories for the UNFCCC parties . Environmental Research Letters , 2024; 19 (5): 054019 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ad3a7d

Cite This Page :

Explore More

  • Emergence of Animals: Magnetic Field Collapse
  • Ice Shelves Crack from Weight of Meltwater Lakes
  • Countries' Plans to Remove CO2 Not Enough
  • Toward Robots With Human-Level Touch Sensitivity
  • 'Doubling' in Origin of Cancer Cells
  • New Catalyst for Using Captured Carbon
  • Random Robots Are More Reliable
  • Significant Discovery in Teleportation Research
  • Orangutan Treats Wound With Pain-Relieving Plant
  • 75,000-Year-Old Neanderthal from Burial Cave

Trending Topics

Strange & offbeat.

  • Get involved
  • News and stories

Bill Nye holding a wrench in one hand and a plunger in the other

Good news: traveling is back! The bad news: our travel leaves a trail of greenhouse gas footprints. Fortunately, you can lighten your travel impacts in three simple steps: reduce, calculate, offset .

carbon footprint for travel

Reduce what you can

  • Avoid travel through video conferencing.
  • Choose trains over planes.
  • Choose a carrier that uses fuel-efficient planes or vehicles.
  • Use ride-sharing
  • Stay in LEED-certified hotels.
  • Use vendors that monitor and mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions.

carbon footprint for travel

Calculate what you can't reduce

  • In the following boxes, enter the estimated number or your flights, car miles, rail trips and hotel stays per year .
  • The subtotal emissions for each category, along with TOTAL Tco2/e * , will be automatically calculated.

carbon footprint for travel

Ready to do your calculations? Use these handy tools:

carbon footprint for travel

Offset Your calculated total footprint

You can reduce your own climate impact by supporting one of many emissions reduction programs. While EDF cannot endorse or recommend any particular calculator, reduction project or provider, here are three you could explore:

carbon footprint for travel

Thank you for doing your part!

Curious about transforming aviation to help the climate?

* Explanation of Carbon Footprint Terms: The carbon dioxide equivalence (tCO2e) with a 100-year time horizon (CO2e-100) is used for emissions estimates when non-CO2 pollutants are included in addition to CO2. For shorthand purposes we use the abbreviation CO2e. Non-CO2 emissions for air travel are mostly nitrogen oxide emissions from aircraft flying over 9,000 meters. The emissions factors employed for air travel are provided by our source using an average Radiative Forcing Index of approximately 2.7. Non-CO2 emissions for hotel stays include N2O and CH4. We note that the inclusion of non-CO2 emissions undervalues their potency in the near-term, and that alternatively using a GWP-20/CO2e-20 would undervalue CO2’s potency in the long-term. Given that the majority of emissions reported here are CO2, a 100-year time horizon is reasonable for this assessment.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LinkedIn
  • Search Please fill out this field.
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Give a Gift Subscription
  • Newsletters
  • Sweepstakes
  • Green Travel

5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint As a Traveler

Simple swaps can make a big difference.

carbon footprint for travel

Climate change. Just two simple words that somehow encompass an idea so big, most of us have no idea how to wrap our heads around it. But ignoring it could come with unfathomable consequences.

Here's what we know about climate change: It's happening very quickly. As NASA explained, the earth's climate has always fluctuated throughout history. Over the last 650,000 years, it notes, there have been "seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization." Most of the climate changes to this point can be attributed to minute variations in the planet's orbit.

However, after humans came around, all bets were off.

"The current warming trend is of particular significance because it is unequivocally the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia," NASA wrote. "It is undeniable that human activities have warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land and that widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred."

In 2015, more than 100 nations came together to sign the Paris agreement, which aims to "limit the rise in average global temperatures to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels – a time period centered roughly on the mid-19th century," Yale Climate Connections explained. It added, even if we could keep it to 1.5°C, that could help stave off extreme heat waves which have already led to the devastating wildfires we're now seeing around the globe, ocean warming, which is leading to coral and marine life extinction, and a major decline in biodiversity.

Now, we won't sit here and try to fool you by saying it's only up to individuals to make a difference, because it just simply is not. As a 2017 study showed, just 100 companies are the source of 71% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. But, there is still a lot you can do as a person, and especially as a traveler, to make both a personal difference with your actions and a big difference with your dollars.

Change your mode of transportation — or at least road trip together.

In 2019, the European Parliament released a study showing the most and least eco-friendly modes of transportation. It stated, "transport is responsible for nearly 30% of the EU's total CO2 emissions," further highlighting that "passenger cars are a major polluter, accounting for 60.7% of total CO2 emissions from road transport in Europe."

So, what's the best way to get around it? If you can, take a train, because as the report states, train transport accounts for just 0.5% of emissions.

Of course, there are ways to make an impact on road travel. "Modern cars could be among the cleanest modes of transport if shared, rather than being driven alone," the report adds, which should encourage you to plan a road trip with friends, or plan to travel together with family to your next destination. Or, let someone else drive for you, like a bus driver. "With an average of 1.7 people per car in Europe, other modes of transport, such as buses, are currently a cleaner alternative."

Invest in an airline dedicated to making a difference.

According to the same report by the European Parliament, air transportation accounted for 13.4% of emissions. While taking a train is better, sometimes flying is unavoidable. That's why it's important to put your money where your mouth is and only book flights on eco-friendly airlines.

According to Green Vacations , airlines like Virgin Atlantic are putting in the work to make travel better for the planet. "In addition to small things like offering sustainably sourced and organic food on their flights, they also make big changes like funding biofuel research," the website explains. "They also adopt a stringent recycling program and have reduced their carbon emissions substantially."

Other airlines to make its list include Air France/KLM for its participation in industry-wide 2020 carbon emission goals and its investments in alternative fuels like biofuel, along with Alaska Airlines for its "Greener Skies" program, JetBlue for its exploration of alternative fuels, and United for its own "Eco-Skies" program, which has helped to improve its plane's fuel efficiency by more than 30% since 1994.

Do your research on accommodations.

Like choosing the right airline, picking the right accommodation can make a difference. Do your homework and check to see if your accommodations offer any eco-alternatives, avoid using single-use plastics, or are LEED-certified. Thankfully, eco-chic is all the rage, with places like Under Canvas offering travelers the chance to glamp in luxury tents that use solar power and pull-chain showers to reduce water use, and hospitality companies like Habitas , which constructs its properties using materials that both reduce waste and improve efficiency.

This is a fun travel assignment, we promise. Whenever possible on your travels, try to eat locally. Find farm-to-table spots, and dine in restaurants that tout locally sourced ingredients, and that celebrate traditional, local cuisine. Not only will this help you appreciate your destination more, but it will also help reduce your carbon footprint. Transportation accounts for 11% of food's greenhouse gas emissions, so the less it has to travel, the better. And bonus points for finding organically grown produce, or going vegetarian for the night as well, because this too can boost your eco-savings .

Plan longer trips.

Here's another tip we're sure you can get down with: plan longer trips, staying in one place. Again, this could help you deepen your appreciation for a place, and help lessen your carbon footprint by keeping you from plane hopping and driving to new destinations over and over again. Go ahead, book a longer stay in a new destination, walk around on foot, interact with locals, and really get to know a place. (As a bonus, your longer stay will also help bolster the local economy more than a short trip). And, if you're really craving a micro-vacation, stick to a nearby domestic stay, or even a staycation, to lessen your footprint, and to reconnect with all the places right around you.

Ready to read more? Check out a few conservation efforts already making a difference around the globe .

Related Articles

  • EN - English
  • PT - Portuguese
  • ES - Spanish
  • How it works
  • Become a Host
  • Download the app

Top Destinations

  • United States
  • United Kingdom

What type of experience are you looking for?

  • Non-Profit School
  • Permaculture project
  • Eco Village
  • Holistic Center
  • Guest House
  • How Worldpackers works

carbon footprint for travel

Learn from the most experienced travelers of the community

Traveling with worldpackers, planning and budgeting for travel, make a living while traveling as a lifestyle, travel with worldpackers.

  • Using Worldpackers
  • Work exchange
  • Social impact

Plan your trip

  • Women traveling
  • Budget travel
  • Solo travel
  • Language learning
  • Travel tips
  • Get inspired
  • Digital nomads
  • Travel jobs
  • Personal development
  • Responsible travel
  • Connect with nature

Top destinations

  • South America
  • Central America
  • North America
  • More destinations
  • WP Life WP Life
  • Exclusive discounts Discounts

Carbon neutral travel: how to reduce your carbon footprint

Travel is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it's important to consider the environmental impact of our journeys. Let's start with carbon neutral travel.

carbon footprint for travel

Raquel www.solanomundo.com.br

Apr 30, 2023


Carbon neutral travel is a way to reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive difference in the world while having life-changing experiences. Travelers can contribute to carbon neutrality by avoiding air travel when possible, traveling close to home, choosing greener airlines, offsetting flight emissions, and more.

Worldpackers offers travelers the opportunity to participate in sustainable travel with eco-friendly hosts around the globe, helping you slow down and become more aware of how your travels affect others. When choosing a volunteer project , look for eco-friendly alternatives that use renewable energy sources and sustainable practices .

You can also start by choosing low-carbon transportation options to get to your host, such as public transport, biking, or walking. Finally, be mindful of how you dispose of your waste when traveling: avoid single-use plastic when possible and recycle what you can. With these steps in mind, it's easy to plan your next adventure as a carbon-neutral travel.

What is a carbon neutral travel?

carbon footprint for travel

A carbon neutral travel policy is a set of guidelines and practices that aim to reduce or offset the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through travel. This can include using renewable energy sources, reducing air travel, carpooling, taking public transportation when possible, and purchasing carbon offsets.  

Carbon offsets are investments in projects that absorb or avoid emissions from entering the atmosphere. By implementing these measures travelers can help mitigate their environmental impact while still enjoying their travels.  One of the most sustainable ways to get around, after walking and biking, is to use public transportation , such as buses and trains. This reduces emissions from private transport and helps to reduce traffic congestion. 

Choosing eco-friendly accommodations such as campings or hostels can also help minimize your environmental impact. This not only cuts down on emissions but also allows you to explore more of your destination in an active way.

Read more on how to be a conscious traveler .

Carbon neutral travel: tips to be a sustainable traveler

Tourism is a major industry that can have a negative impact on the environment due to carbon emissions from air travel and other activities. Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, as each flight emits tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But to reduce your carbon footprint when travelling, there are several things you can do from traveling more slower to choosing sustainable accommodations.

Avoid air travel when possible

Airplanes emit large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants into the atmosphere when they fly. These emissions contribute significantly to climate change and global warming, as well as local air pollution in areas near airports or flight paths . The amount of CO2 emitted depends on how far you fly and what type of aircraft you use –older planes tend to be less efficient than newer ones.

Travel close to home

Travel can be a powerful tool for positive change, but it's important to consider the impact our travels have on the environment. Traveling close to home is one way to reduce our carbon footprint while still enjoying meaningful experiences and connecting with nature . Not only will you save money, but you'll have the opportunity to explore your own culture from a different perspective and visit nearby communities in a more meaningful way.

carbon footprint for travel

Choose a greener airline

Carbon neutral air travel is possible, by using alternative fuels and advanced aircraft technologies, airlines can reduce their emissions to zero. Additionally, offsetting the remaining emissions with carbon credits or investing in renewable energy projects can help make air travel completely carbon neutral . 

Airlines are also making efforts to increase efficiency by reducing weight and optimizing flight paths which helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions. To reduce your carbon footprint while travelling, choose an airline with more efficient planes , fly direct, buy offsets for flights taken and book economy class tickets.

Travel slower

Slow travel gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture of your destination by spending more time there. You can discover hidden gems off the beaten path that most tourists don’t get to see, learn about different customs from locals , or even take part in traditional activities like cooking classes or cultural tours. This type of travel also helps support small businesses in rural areas which are often overlooked by larger tour companies.

Slow travel offers other side benefits, such as: connecting with nature and wildlife, and save money and time . Traveling slower tends to be cheaper than traditional tourism, as accommodation costs are lower when staying at one place instead of moving around constantly. 

Choose sustainable accommodation

Your choice of accommodation also plays an important role in reducing the environmental impact of tourism. Look for hotels that are certified green or eco-friendly - these often use renewable energy sources such as solar power, dopt sustainable practices such as water conservation initiatives, and may even offer locally sourced food in their restaurants or cafes. 

Staying in smaller guesthouses owned by locals can also help support local economies while minimizing your own environmental footprint during your trip. Last but not least, volunteering is one of the best ways to choose sustainable accommodation while giving back to the community and having an incredibly rewarding experience.

Connect with nature and experience local culture

carbon footprint for travel

Taking your time while travelling means having more opportunities to appreciate nature around you. Whether it’s taking a leisurely stroll through a national park or going on an overnight camping trip. Slow travel allows you to observe wildlife up close without disturbing it too much, and develop an appreciation for natural landscapes that you may miss if you rush through places quickly.

Slowing down your travel pace allows you to experience the routine of the place, talk to locals, and make new friends. This way, you're more likely to get invited to local events and try different types of local food. Traveling slower also allows you to make better use of your vacation days , as you have more free time during your stay instead of rushing from one attraction to the next all day.

Eco-hosts to volunteer around the world

Europe is home to some of the most beautiful and unique ecological projects to volunteer in the world. From  organic farms in Switzerland , to helping with horse care in Portugal , there are plenty of sustainable accommodation options for travellers looking to reduce their carbon footprint while exploring this continent.

In Asia & Pacific Islands , you can find everything from traditional thatched huts on Fiji’s beaches, to beachfront villas made entirely out of bamboo on Bali . These eco-friendly hosts offer an authentic experience with minimal environmental impact, perfect for those who want to explore without leaving too much of a mark behind them.

North America & Caribbean also have some great eco-hosts that provide sustainable accommodations for travellers looking to make a positive impact during their travels. In Canada, you can stay at off-grid lodges powered by solar energy or rent tiny homes surrounded by nature reserves; while in Mexico and other parts of Central America you can find rustic ecolodges nestled among lush jungles and rainforests.

carbon footprint for travel

In Latin America,  you can help with an ecological water recycling project in Mexico , learn about Indigenous culture in Venezuela , and work with biodynamic agriculture in Brazil . These ecological projects offer a deep connection with nature and the opportunity to visit some of the best beaches in the world, and learn how to surf and dive in your free time. 

No matter where your travels take you around the world, there are always eco-friendly hosts available offering sustainable accommodation options so that everyone can enjoy travelling responsibly. Ecological projects offer travelers a unique way to explore the world while reducing their carbon footprint. Now that you know where to find them, let's look at some tips for planning sustainable travel.

Tips for carbon neutral travel planning

Sustainable travel planning is key to reducing your carbon footprint during travel. Research you destination, choose greener transportation and pack lightly are part of that. Here are some tips to help you make your travels more sustainable.

1. Research your destination before you go

Researching the destination before you go can help reduce your environmental impact and save money. Make sure to research local customs, transportation options, climate, and attractions so that you can plan accordingly. You can also look into eco-friendly accommodation options such as hostels or camping sites which have a smaller environmental impact than traditional hotels.

2. Choose greener transportation options

Whenever possible, opt for greener transportation methods such as public transport or cycling instead of flying or driving long distances in order to reduce emissions from air travel and road trips. If taking a flight is unavoidable, consider offsetting the carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits from an accredited provider.

3. Pack lightly

Packing lightly not only helps minimize waste but also reduces the amount of energy needed to transport luggage on planes and trains. Try to bring reusable items such as water bottles, cutlery sets and cloth bags. Whenever possible, avoid single-use plastics and try reusing towels multiple times rather than having them changed daily in order to conserve water resources.

Traveling sustainably is not only better for the environment, but it also allows you to get a deeper understanding of the places you visit. But how to start? Worldpackers offers an innovative way to travel more slowly and with greater purpose -let's take a look.

carbon footprint for travel

Worldpackers:  a way to travel slower and more sustainably

Worldpackers is a platform that allows travelers to explore the world while making a positive impact. It offers opportunities for volunteers to stay with hosts in exchange for a few hours of help, gaining unique experiences and build meaningful connections. Through Worldpackers, travelers can find eco-volunteer positions around the world in various fields such as teaching english, working on organic farms, helping out in hostels or guesthouses, and more.

Worldpackers is a platform that enables travelers to explore the world while making a positive impact. It offers an opportunity to travel slower and give back, allowing travelers to experience new cultures and make a difference in local communities along the way. Benefits include: unique experiences and meaningful connections.

How can I travel more sustainably with Worldpackers?

To use Worldpackers, you first need to create an account on the website or mobile app. Once registered, you can browse hundreds of volunteer positions available all over the globe , and, after becoming a verified member, apply for those that interest you the most. After being accepted by a host organization you will be able to contact the host directly.  

Using Worldpackers has many benefits for both travelers and hosts: for travelers, it provides the opportunity to travel at a slower pace than usual while giving back by not only learning about new cultures but also making a difference in local communities. Host organizations benefit by having access to motivated volunteers, making it much easier to carry out projects. Finally, both sides get something out of it , the travelers get unique experiences that wouldn't be possible without this type of program, and the hosts get help from passionate people who are eager to learn about other cultures.

carbon footprint for travel

Ready to go carbon neutral ? 

Traveling sustainably and responsibly is an important part of being a carbon neutral traveler. With Worldpackers, you can easily find eco-hosts around the world to help reduce your carbon footprint while still having life-changing experiences. By following our tips for sustainable travel planning, you can ensure that your travels are both meaningful and environmentally friendly. So start exploring the world with a lighter environmental impact today.

By choosing carbon neutral travel, we can reduce our environmental footprint and help fight climate change. Let's take actionable steps towards sustainable tourism by supporting local communities through volunteering opportunities with Worldpackers . 

Want to learn more about planning your trip? By subscribing to the WP pack plan you have unlimited access to +120 courses at Worldpackers Academy, the travel school made by travelers!

Join the community!

Create a free Worldpackers account to discover volunteer experiences perfect for you and get access to exclusive travel discounts!

Raquel Pryzant


Travel journalist, author of the @solanomundo project and collaborator in different media such as Viajes National Geographic, Folha de S. Paulo and Qual Viagem Magazine. Read more: www.solanomundo.com.br

Be part of the Worldpackers Community

Already have an account, are you a host, leave your comment here.

Write here your questions and greetings to the author

carbon footprint for travel

Mar 24, 2023

carbon footprint for travel

Good merning

More about this topic

carbon footprint for travel

How ecotourism benefits the environment and local communities

Ecotourism examples around the world: the 10 best places to visit and adventure.

carbon footprint for travel

Eco tourism destinations around the world

carbon footprint for travel

How do Worldpackers trips work?

As a member, you can contact as many hosts and travel safely as many times as you want.

Choose your plan to travel with Worldpackers as many times as you like.

Complete your profile, watch the video lessons in the Academy, and earn certificates to stand out to hosts.

Apply to as many positions as you like, and get in contact with our verified hosts.

If a host thinks you’re a good fit for their position, they’ll pre-approve you.

Get your documents and tickets ready for your volunteer trip.

Confirm your trip to enjoy all of the safety of Worldpackers.

Have a transformative experience and make a positive impact on the world.

If anything doesn’t go as planned with a host, count on the WP Safeguard and our highly responsive support team!

After volunteering, you and your host exchange reviews.

With positive reviews, you’ll stand out to hosts and get even more benefits.

  • Credit cards
  • View all credit cards
  • Banking guide
  • Loans guide
  • Insurance guide
  • Personal finance
  • View all personal finance
  • Small business
  • Small business guide
  • View all taxes

You’re our first priority. Every time.

We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. And while our site doesn’t feature every company or financial product available on the market, we’re proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward — and free.

So how do we make money? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which products we review and write about (and where those products appear on the site), but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services. Here is a list of our partners .

4 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When Traveling

Sam Kemmis

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

Travel, by nature, takes energy. Moving our bodies around the globe requires fuel, often in the form of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

Air travel generates 11% of total U.S. transportation emissions, according to a 2021 White House fact sheet. That’s a huge number, but it points to another big carbon toll: 89% of emissions happen on the ground.

Thankfully, being a more sustainable traveler doesn’t require enormous sacrifice — or expense. Reducing the impact of getting around on the ground at your destination is easy and can improve the quality of your trip.

1. Visit transit-friendly destinations

For many destinations, the airport signs that point to “ground transportation” have only a couple of options: rideshares and rental cars . Neither of these is very carbon-friendly, according to a 2022 report from the Congressional Budget Office, which estimates that cars release just under half a pound of carbon dioxide per passenger mile traveled.

On the other hand, rail transit releases less than half as much carbon per passenger mile, making it far less emission intensive.

Choosing to visit destinations with robust public train networks, such as New York City or Tokyo, can significantly improve the eco-friendly options for getting around.

Conversely, visiting destinations that all but require a rental car, such as the island of Maui in Hawaii, can balloon your carbon footprint on top of the emissions from a long flight.

This doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. Scooting around Japan by high-speed rail is a tourist attraction in its own right, as is marveling at the miraculously on-time performance of German rail. Even taking the D train to Brooklyn has its charms.

2. Rent an electric vehicle

Only a few years ago, renting an electric car was something only the rich or very eco-conscious would have considered. Now, the logic has changed as these vehicles go mainstream and charging stations pop up everywhere from grocery stores to hotel parking lots .

Rental car company Hertz made a splash by placing an order for 100,000 Tesla vehicles in 2021. Teslas made up 10% of Hertz’s fleet by the end of 2022, according to regulatory filings.

When we checked on Hertz, you could rent a Tesla Model 3 for $78 per day plus taxes out of Los Angeles — a reasonable rate, especially given the high costs of rental cars these days. Avis, Sixt and Enterprise also have electric vehicles in their fleet in select locations.

Alternative car rental platforms such as Turo offer Teslas and other EVs, making them a good choice in locations where traditional car rental companies have only gasoline-powered options.

Renting an EV is a great way to test the pros and cons before purchasing one yourself .

3. Stay put

This option for reducing ground transportation emissions is so simple that it’s easy to overlook. Rather than trying to see every national park in California (there are nine, after all), consider sticking to one and taking it slow.

Not only is this a great way to avoid guzzling gas, it’s also rewarding in its own right. “Slow travel” promotes connecting with local culture and people rather than checking every item off the bucket list. It also means spending less of that precious vacation time in the car.

Beyond the metaphysical and environmental benefits of taking it slow, this approach can also reduce the cost of a trip. Rather than spending money on gas, take a local class or tour, or save it for the next trip.

4. Travel in groups

A single-occupancy car emits almost half a pound of carbon dioxide per passenger mile. That number scales with the number of passengers, meaning the more passengers, the fewer (relative) emissions.

This is good news for environmentally conscious families, who tend to fill cars and vans more than couples and solo travelers . And it’s a good reason to carpool for driving-intensive trips, such as those for weddings.

Again, this is an option to reduce emissions that doesn’t cost anything. In fact, it saves money.

The bottom line

Travel is literally world-expanding, but it comes with built-in environmental costs.

And while it can seem like there’s no alternative to renting a car or hiring an Uber (and sometimes there isn’t), there are ways to reduce the footprint of ground transportation without sacrificing the quality of your trip.

Consider destinations that offer public transportation where renting a car isn’t necessary. If that isn’t an option, you can always rent an EV or fill your rental car with more passengers to reduce the impact. And you can even consider slowing down and embracing “slow travel” as a personal and environmental win-win.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024 , including those best for:

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

1x-5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

75,000 Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

1.5%-5% Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Up to $300 Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

2x-5x Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

75,000 Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

carbon footprint for travel

The new order of business travel

A person at an airport.

It is possible to reduce your carbon footprint when flying. Image:  Unsplash/Anete Lūsiņa

carbon footprint for travel

.chakra .wef-9dduvl{margin-top:16px;margin-bottom:16px;line-height:1.388;font-size:1.25rem;}@media screen and (min-width:56.5rem){.chakra .wef-9dduvl{font-size:1.125rem;}} Explore and monitor how .chakra .wef-15eoq1r{margin-top:16px;margin-bottom:16px;line-height:1.388;font-size:1.25rem;color:#F7DB5E;}@media screen and (min-width:56.5rem){.chakra .wef-15eoq1r{font-size:1.125rem;}} Pandemic Preparedness and Response is affecting economies, industries and global issues

A hand holding a looking glass by a lake

.chakra .wef-1nk5u5d{margin-top:16px;margin-bottom:16px;line-height:1.388;color:#2846F8;font-size:1.25rem;}@media screen and (min-width:56.5rem){.chakra .wef-1nk5u5d{font-size:1.125rem;}} Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale

Stay up to date:, pandemic preparedness and response.

  • Business travel was one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic, and remote and hybrid work are bringing its future into question.
  • Travel remains an important way for people to connect, but aviation accounts for 2-3% of global emissions.
  • Travelling economy class has half the CO2 footprint of business class, because passengers take up half the space.
  • Sustainable aviation fuel made from 100% renewable waste and residue raw materials, such as used cooking oil, is another option for reducing aviation emissions.

Among many casualties of the pandemic, business travel was one of the biggest. In 2020, the total amount of business travel expenses dropped 52% , according to McKinsey. Today, as we are learning to live with the Coronavirus and what feels like normality largely resuming, the dilemma around what that means for travel and face-to-face meetings is real.

It is clear that the old ways of working are no more – and that includes business travel. Remote and hybrid work are now the new normal, leaving business travel in an interesting position. “Business travel has reduced a lot,” says Katharina Riederer, co-founder of eco.mio, a consultancy that helps businesses choose sustainable travel solutions. “And we have these new opportunities: we’re meeting on Zoom.”

It’s a significant shift that may have come from expediency, rather than a desire to save the environment - but can the sustainability agenda make the need and want to think twice about travel last? From the necessity brought on by lockdowns we now have far better and widely adopted alternatives to choose from to help us do business remotely instead of making the trip.

It seems however, that those new opportunities are not always being taken up - or at least, cannot fully replace business travel. “In the new normal, travel remains an important way we connect, but aviation accounts for two to three percent of global emissions - and the number of flights are expected to grow significantly,” says Susanne Bouma, Head of Partnerships and Programs, Renewable Aviation at Neste , the world’s leading producer of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from 100% renewable waste and residue raw materials, such as used cooking oil.

To meet or not to meet

Riederer admits that considering whether or not to make a trip is a business-driven decision. “Oftentimes, you can’t really control how much travel is in the company,” she says. “Take consulting: some customers really want you to be there.”

It’s also often cultural. “Two years ago, it was felt people would never need to meet again,” says Clive Wratten, chief executive of the British Travel Association. “But conversely, the reverse happened culturally: in Asia, it was seen as very important to get back out and meet people in the room, so you can understand all the nuances that come with doing business in a totally different culture.”

Yet if you can choose to not take the trip, what should you consider when deciding whether or not to book a flight, hop on a train, or rent a car to make your next meeting?

“The big consultancy firms and finance firms are very much getting back out and seeing customers, making sure they're in front of them,” says Wratten. “And that is really important. But do we really need to go and have an internal meeting in New York, where we meet our colleagues?”

For important meetings where you’re trying to close a key business deal, where it’s important to see the whites in your counterpart’s eyes, that flight may be necessary. But when you’re already well-established with partners, any meetings could well be via a video call.

What is the most sustainable way of traveling?

As well as questioning what the purpose of any trip is, it’s also worth considering what methods of transport are available to you.

Riederer points to Germany, where many people will choose to travel on trains rather than fly because of great connectivity. Another country that does well when it comes to internal land connections is Japan, whose high-speed train system means that the time taken for trips is often equal to or less than a corresponding flight.

“You can’t do that in the US,” Riederer says, conceding that this is not going to be an option for everyone. Helpfully, sites like Chronotrains tell would-be travelers how far they can travel from each train station across Europe in five hours – which is roughly the amount of time it’d take even the most seasoned business traveler to traverse check-in queues, security lines, and travel to and from airports even on the shortest of short-haul flights.

But even if you can’t change the mode of transport, you can take action to reduce your carbon footprint if you have to fly. “Economy class emits half the CO2 footprint of business class, because you take up half the space,” points out Riederer.

Individual companies can also take steps to ensure they’re helping, rather than harming, the planet. Whenever Bouma or any of her colleagues at Neste have to travel on planes, they fully compensate the carbon footprint equivalent of their flights with the equivalent of sustainable aviation fuel. “We’re walking the talk, and showing how it’s done,” she says. “That gives us a massive platform to be able to make and drive change.”

Acting now while innovating for the future

While the future of business travel and travel at large is possibly more unpredictable now than it has been for a long time, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) the number of air passengers is set to exceed pre-Covid-19 levels in 2024. This means that the need for alternatives to fossil fuels in aviation is urgent and sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, is widely acknowledged as a key solution here. SAF is already commercially available as a direct replacement for fossil-based jet fuel cutting greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to traditional fuel used in planes*.

For now, SAF is the only viable and direct option for reducing aviation emissions but there are more innovations in the pipeline for the longer term, says Bouma. “Sustainable aviation fuel alone will not be the silver bullet. Hydrogen and electric flying will all be part of the equation - but not available at commercial scale in the short-term.”

Until those innovations arrive and are deployed, we all have to play our part in upholding the new order of business travel. Of course it’s not simple to travel more sustainably. It’s easier said than done, the experts admit.

“There are no shortcuts to heaven,” says Bouma. “It’s important to acknowledge that, but at the same time we should choose the most sustainable options for travel where we can.”

The Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2023 report showed that after a decade of progress, the global energy transition has plateaued amid the global energy crisis and geopolitical volatilities.

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Energy and Materials is driving the transition to a “fit for 2050” energy system. It is a cross-industry platform building new coalitions and delivering insights required for a sustainable, secure and just energy future.

Learn more about our impact:

  • Clean energy in emerging economies: We are advancing country-specific renewable energy finance solutions for four of the biggest emerging and developing economies : India, Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia. In the latter, a new solar and battery initiative is bringing 15MW of clean energy to the East Sumba region – enough to power 4,000 homes and avoid 5.5KtCO₂ yearly emissions.
  • Energy Transition Index: We have measured the progress of 120 countries on the performance of their energy systems, enabling policymakers and businesses to identify the necessary actions for the energy transition.
  • Mining and metals blockchain : We released a proof of concept to trace emissions across the value chain using blockchain technology, helping accelerate global action for country-specific financing solutions.
  • Clean power and electrification: We are accelerating the adoption of clean power and electric solutions in the next decade to help increase clean energy consumption threefold by 2030.

Want to know more about our centre’s impact or get involved? Contact us .

Have you read?

.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo{-webkit-transition:all 0.15s ease-out;transition:all 0.15s ease-out;cursor:pointer;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;outline:none;color:inherit;}.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo:hover,.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo[data-hover]{-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo:focus,.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo[data-focus]{box-shadow:0 0 0 3px rgba(168,203,251,0.5);} how post-covid stimulus plans can make travel more sustainable, towards resilience and sustainability: travel and tourism development recovery, don't miss any update on this topic.

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:

The agenda .chakra .wef-n7bacu{margin-top:16px;margin-bottom:16px;line-height:1.388;font-weight:400;} weekly.

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

.chakra .wef-1dtnjt5{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-flex-wrap:wrap;-ms-flex-wrap:wrap;flex-wrap:wrap;} More on Industries in Depth .chakra .wef-17xejub{-webkit-flex:1;-ms-flex:1;flex:1;justify-self:stretch;-webkit-align-self:stretch;-ms-flex-item-align:stretch;align-self:stretch;} .chakra .wef-nr1rr4{display:-webkit-inline-box;display:-webkit-inline-flex;display:-ms-inline-flexbox;display:inline-flex;white-space:normal;vertical-align:middle;text-transform:uppercase;font-size:0.75rem;border-radius:0.25rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;line-height:1.2;-webkit-letter-spacing:1.25px;-moz-letter-spacing:1.25px;-ms-letter-spacing:1.25px;letter-spacing:1.25px;background:none;padding:0px;color:#B3B3B3;-webkit-box-decoration-break:clone;box-decoration-break:clone;-webkit-box-decoration-break:clone;}@media screen and (min-width:37.5rem){.chakra .wef-nr1rr4{font-size:0.875rem;}}@media screen and (min-width:56.5rem){.chakra .wef-nr1rr4{font-size:1rem;}} See all

carbon footprint for travel

Robot rock stars, pocket forests, and the battle for chips - Forum podcasts you should hear this month

Robin Pomeroy and Linda Lacina

April 29, 2024

carbon footprint for travel

Agritech: Shaping Agriculture in Emerging Economies, Today and Tomorrow

carbon footprint for travel

Confused about AI? Here are the podcasts you need on artificial intelligence

Robin Pomeroy

April 25, 2024

carbon footprint for travel

Which technologies will enable a cleaner steel industry?

Daniel Boero Vargas and Mandy Chan

carbon footprint for travel

Industry government collaboration on agritech can empower global agriculture

Abhay Pareek and Drishti Kumar

April 23, 2024

carbon footprint for travel

Nearly 15% of the seafood we produce each year is wasted. Here’s what needs to happen

Charlotte Edmond

April 11, 2024

carbon footprint for travel


What is a carbon footprint—and how to measure yours

Determining a carbon footprint is easier said than done, and it’s not clear how much weight we should put on it.

As awareness of climate change   grows, so does the desire to do something about it . But the scale of the problems it causes—from wildfires to melting glaciers to droughts—can seem utterly overwhelming . It can be hard to make a connection between our everyday lives and the survival of polar bears, let alone how we as individuals can help turn the situation around.

One way to gain a quantifiable understanding of the impacts of our actions, for good and bad, is through what is known as a carbon footprint. But while the concept is gaining traction—Googling “How do I reduce my carbon footprint?” yields almost 27 million responses—it is not always fully understood .

What is a carbon footprint?

So, what exactly is a carbon footprint? According to Mike Berners-Lee , a professor at Lancaster University in the UK and author of The Carbon Footprint of Everything , it is “the sum total of all the greenhouse gas emissions that had to take place in order for a product to be produced or for an activity to take place.”

For most consumers in developed countries, these products and activities tend to fall into four principal categories: household energy use, transport, food, and everything else, which is mostly the products we buy, from utensils to clothes to cars to television sets.

Each of these activities and products has its own footprint; a person’s carbon footprint is the combined total of the products they buy and use, the activities they undertake, and so on. A person who regularly consumes beef will have a   larger food footprint than his vegan neighbor, but that neighbor’s overall footprint may be larger if she drives an hour to work and back in an SUV each day while our meat-eater bicycles to his office nearby. Both their footprints may pale in comparison to the businesswoman across the street, who flies first-class cross-country twice a month.

Unsurprisingly, in general terms the size of a person’s carbon footprint tends to increase with wealth. In his book, Berners-Lee writes that the average global citizen has a carbon footprint that is equivalent to the emission of seven tons of carbon dioxide per year. However, that figure is approximately 13 tons for the average Briton and roughly 21 tons per person in the United States.; The “average American takes just a couple of days to match the annual footprint of the average Nigerian or Malian,” he writes.

carbon footprint for travel

How is a carbon footprint calculated?

It isn’t easy to calculate a carbon footprint; indeed, Berners-Lee calls it the “essential but impossible” measurement.

For Hungry Minds

Consider, for example, the personal carbon cost of taking a commercial flight. On the one hand, the calculation is straightforward: take how much fuel a plane burns and how many greenhouse gases are emitted during the course of a flight and divide by the number of passengers. But the footprint is larger for first-and-business-class passengers, because they take up more space and because their higher cost creates an extra incentive for the flight to actually take place. Other considerations include how much cargo the plane is carrying, and the altitude at which the plane flies .

Even so, it is a relatively simple calculation compared to assessing the emissions involved in every step of, say, the manufacture of a car: the emissions that take place at the assembly plant, the generation of electricity to power that plant, the transport of all the component items, the factories at which the components were made, the creation of the machinery used at those factories and at the assembly plant and so on, all the way back to the extraction of the minerals that are the car’s building blocks.

Because of the complexity involved in such calculations, Berners-Lee concedes that in such cases it is “never possible to be completely accurate.” The good news, he argues, is that for most individuals, that doesn’t matter. “Usually, it’s good enough just to have a broad idea,” he says.

What steps a person can take to reduce their personal footprint the most of course depends on the kind of lifestyle they presently live, and the same actions are not equally effective for everyone. For example, switching to an electric car is far more impactful in Vermont , where more than half the state’s electricity is generated by hydropower, than in West Virginia, where it is almost entirely generated by coal. Berners-Lee notes that, “for some people, flying may be 10 percent of their footprint, for some people it’s zero, and for some it’s such a huge number that it should be the only thing they should be thinking about.”

You May Also Like

carbon footprint for travel

Forget your carbon footprint—your climate shadow is what really matters

carbon footprint for travel

What is El Niño—and will it lead to more snow this winter?

carbon footprint for travel

Cobalt powers our lives. What is it—and why is it so controversial?

A cornucopia of calculators.

To that end, in recent years, a veritable cornucopia of personal carbon footprint calculators has emerged online. By entering information about your household energy use, food consumption, and travel habits, for example, these calculators aim to provide you with an approximation of the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted to support your way of life. This one from the Nature Conservancy focuses on home energy use, transportation, diet, and shopping; this, from the United States Environmental Protection Agency , also considers transportation and energy use but adds in waste—specifically, how much you recycle. It also enables you to calculate how much your footprint could be reduced by taking steps such as insulating your home, driving less, or procuring a more fuel-efficient vehicle. This one shows just how much of an idealized personal carbon budget is taken up by consuming two large cheeseburgers a month or spending two nights in a hotel.

Are carbon footprints just fossil fuel propaganda?

It has been claimed that the earliest such calculator appeared in 2004 as part of the “ Beyond Petroleum” campaign of oil giant BP —a fact that causes some observers to criticize the pressure to reduce personal carbon footprints as a “sham” to “promote the slant that climate change is not the fault of an oil giant, but that of individuals.”

“A few years ago, Shell promoted a tweet into my thread that asked, ‘What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?’” recalls Katharine Hayhoe , chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy and a professor at Texas Tech University. “So, I replied with something along the lines of, ‘You are responsible for 2 percent of global emissions, equivalent to the entire country of Canada; when you have a plan to get rid of those, I’d be happy to talk to you about my personal carbon footprint.’ And they hid my reply.”

“It’s really important that all of us think about what we’re consuming, whether it’s fish or furniture or air conditioning: where it came from, what impact it had,” says Kert Davies, director of the Climate Investigations Center . “But industry then turned it around and made it: ‘It’s not our fault, you’re using our product. You deal with it.’”

That is all the more egregious, he argues, given that the fossil fuel industry has directly fought to limit some of the measures that are often cited as ways for people to reduce their personal carbon footprints: more fuel-efficient vehicle standards, or clean energy technology , for example.

“If not for fossil fuel companies, you would already be driving an EV, your house would be more efficient to run if industry hadn’t blocked solutions and obscured the truth about the urgency of addressing climate change ,” Davies adds.

Do carbon footprint calculators have a role?

Hayhoe argues that there are other problems with the concept of personal carbon footprints, not least the fact that many of the proposed means to reduce those footprints are unavailable to those who, for example, don’t have access to public transport, or can’t afford the upfront cost of an electric car or a heat pump, or who live in food deserts , where healthier, lower-impact foods such as vegetables and grains are harder to come by.

“There’s a role for the personal carbon footprint concept in high income countries among middle-to-high income people,” she explains. “There’s a very big role for the personal carbon footprint among the very richest people in the world . But we have to realize it is a limited concept—it does not apply to everyone.”

In addition, she argues, acting by ourselves is just one small part of what is required to affect change in a system that, despite the best individual efforts, remains dominated by the production and use of fossil fuels.

“I would say personal carbon footprint calculators are a useful tool to assess the impact of your immediate actions: where you live, where you travel, what you eat,” she says. “But what’s much more important than your personal carbon footprint is your climate shadow . Where do you keep your money? How do you vote? What about the businesses you work with, or the university you’re a part of, or the Rotary Club of which you’re a member—what are they doing, and how could you advocate for change?

“So, in a nutshell, when people ask me what they should do, I say: Do something, anything, but then talk about it. The only way to bring the carbon footprint of everybody in rich countries to where it needs to be for a sustainable planet is to change the system, and to change the system we have to use our voice.”

Related Topics


carbon footprint for travel

How wildfire smoke infiltrates your home—and how to get rid of it

carbon footprint for travel

How to compost—and why it’s good for the environment

carbon footprint for travel

Wildfire season is getting longer—and more intense. Here's how to prepare.

carbon footprint for travel

5 simple things you can do to live more sustainably

carbon footprint for travel

Leave your dead leaves on the ground this fall

  • Environment

History & Culture

  • History & Culture
  • History Magazine
  • Mind, Body, Wonder
  • Coronavirus Coverage
  • Paid Content
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Your US State Privacy Rights
  • Children's Online Privacy Policy
  • Interest-Based Ads
  • About Nielsen Measurement
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information
  • Nat Geo Home
  • Attend a Live Event
  • Book a Trip
  • Inspire Your Kids
  • Shop Nat Geo
  • Visit the D.C. Museum
  • Learn About Our Impact
  • Support Our Mission
  • Advertise With Us
  • Customer Service
  • Renew Subscription
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Work at Nat Geo
  • Sign Up for Our Newsletters
  • Contribute to Protect the Planet

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • View all journals
  • Explore content
  • About the journal
  • Publish with us
  • Sign up for alerts
  • 25 April 2024

Air-travel climate-change emissions detailed for nearly 200 nations

An inventory lists the aviation emissions of all 197 nations that are signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Credit: Getty

Scientists have compiled the first estimate of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by air travel in each of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1 .

Access options

Access Nature and 54 other Nature Portfolio journals

Get Nature+, our best-value online-access subscription

24,99 € / 30 days

cancel any time

Subscribe to this journal

Receive 51 print issues and online access

185,98 € per year

only 3,65 € per issue

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Nature 629 , 11 (2024)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-01148-8

Klenner, J., Muri, H. & Strømman, A. H. Environ. Res. Lett. 19 , 054019 (2024).

Article   Google Scholar  

Download references

  • Climate change

Support communities that will lose out in the energy transition

Support communities that will lose out in the energy transition

Editorial 01 MAY 24

Frequent disturbances enhanced the resilience of past human populations

Frequent disturbances enhanced the resilience of past human populations

Article 01 MAY 24

Why it was right to reject the Anthropocene as a geological epoch

Correspondence 30 APR 24

Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor

Athens, Georgia

University of Georgia

carbon footprint for travel

Associate Professor - Synthetic Biology

Position Summary  We seek an Associate Professor in the department of Synthetic Biology (jcvi.org/research/synthetic-biology). We invite applicatio...

Rockville, Maryland

J. Craig Venter Institute

carbon footprint for travel

Associate or Senior Editor (microbial genetics, evolution, and epidemiology) Nature Communications

Job Title: Associate or Senior Editor (microbial genetics, evolution, and epidemiology), Nature Communications Locations: London, New York, Philade...

New York (US)

Springer Nature Ltd

carbon footprint for travel

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Two postdoctoral positions offered at HMS to study the role hypothalamic leptin resistance in control of neuron activity

Boston, Massachusetts (US)

Boston Children’s Hospital-Ozcan Lab

carbon footprint for travel

Two Junior Research Group Leaders (f/d/m) for Photonics

Friedrich Schiller University is a traditional University with a strong research profile based in the heart of Germany. As a University covering al...

07743, Jena (DE)

Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

carbon footprint for travel

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Quick links

  • Explore articles by subject
  • Guide to authors
  • Editorial policies

carbon footprint for travel

Is your travel ‘green’ enough? 5 ways to help reduce your travel carbon footprint.

This article is reprinted by permission from  NextAvenue.org .

Several years ago, I booked what I thought was an “ecodestination” family trip to Costa Rica. What I had hoped would be a transformational experience among the rainforests, cloud forests, volcanoes and endangered habitats was an eye-opener and great experience.

Yet it wasn’t earth-friendly when I totaled up the carbon dioxide produced by our flights there and back and the transportation getting to exotic parks.

As the summer travel season accelerates and COVID concerns fade, a  growing number  of Americans want to “green” their travel plans. While that usually means shrinking one’s carbon footprint, many travelers are misled by “eco-tourism” trips designed to make well-meaning tourists feel less guilty about their journey.

Also see: What to know before you book a flight on one of those low-cost international airlines

Burdened by Flygscam?

As world travelers seek to satisfy their wanderlust, many are also becoming more aware of the environmental impact of their travels. Some, like me, may even feel guilty about it. The Swedes have a new word for this carbon-intensive regret:  Flygscam ,  meaning guilt associated with air travel.

Jet planes belch tons of carbon dioxide and particulate matter into the atmosphere. The longest flights are the worst: Flying from New York to Toyko can produce up to two tons of carbon dioxide per passenger. Even medium to short-haul flights can inject up to 1.5 tons of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, according to the  United Nations.

“A lot of people are starting to look at this,” says Heather Magnussen, who is in charge of responsible travel and sustainability for Audley Travel in Boston. “They are looking to reduce CO emissions from their travels.”

You might like: Fungi remove at least a third of polluting carbon from oil and gas. Can we increase their role in curbing climate change?

Be skeptical of offsets

Although there are a host of companies offering “carbon offsets,” which attempt to mitigate your carbon impact through buying third-party carbon credits or planting trees, the practice is controversial and may not reduce the impact of your travel. It would be worthwhile to explore third-party services like  Climate Impact Partners , which vets these offerings.

Carbon offset providers have many drawbacks; they may not be directly pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. According to one study by  the Guardian , “90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest certifier are worthless.” The study questioned the company’s impact in reducing rainforest depletion.  Verra , a Washington-based nonprofit that verifies carbon-offset claims, disputed the Guardian’s assertions.

In recent years, airlines have taken steps to reduce their carbon emissions. Some have committed to “science-based targets” for reducing their carbon emissions, says Michelle Li, founder of  Clever Carbon , a company that helps everyday individuals learn about their carbon footprint.

“Traveling can never be ‘green,’ ” Li says, “but there are ways to lower your carbon footprint and your impact on the planet.” Learning how to do so will require you to do a little homework and use third-party services, such as  Science Based Targets , that monitor companies’ commitments to reducing emissions.

Related : Are airlines doing anything for the planet? Not so much

You can, of course, drill down even more on your own and customize your own trip or find a travel agency that can book a “green trip.” When Magnussen advises on a trip, she looks for eco-friendly hotels that use renewable energy and buy food from local sources, among other environmentally friendly factors.

The simplest option is to travel locally or take lower-impact trips on trains, which is best accomplished in Europe, Japan and China, which have extensive high-speed rail systems. Of course, planning your own green trip requires some homework. Here are some essential points to consider.

5 ways to lower your travel carbon footprint

  • Do the math on carbon emissions.  An online  calculator  can estimate the amount of carbon a trip will generate; Google Flights does the same for travel it books. Some answers are unsurprising: Long flights generate a lot of carbon dioxide while local or nonstop flights are not as bad.
  • Consider options.  If you choose to run some numbers, find the least carbon-intensive way to reach your destination. If the numbers alarm you, downscale your trip — make it shorter — or buy offsets to counter the impact of your sojourn. As noted above, offsets are a dubious device. Keep in mind you can also plant (or pay a large organization to plant) a lot of trees, restore wetlands, prairies and savannas. The United Nations has some  useful guidelines .
  • Try an eco-working trip.  Most large, active environmental groups sponsor  programs  that restore wilderness areas and parks. You can also volunteer to do the same at a local park,  forest  or conservation district. That’s the lowest carbon footprint of all.
  • Choose eco-friendly lodging.  This is a broadly defined category that ranges from treehouses to resorts that commit to shrinking their carbon footprint. Choose lodging that employs sustainability practices: Does the property run on renewable energy? What is it doing to reduce its waste stream? How is it minimizing its effect on the local environment? An organization called  Travelife Partners  does third-party certification of lodging companies.
  • Take a staycation.  That’s right. Explore your metropolitan area using public transportation to get to local museums, parks, forest preserves and hotels. Just about every mid- to large city has great science, natural history and nature museums accessible by public transit.

Read next: This ‘Fitbit’ for tree health saves homeowners money and helps fight climate change

John F. Wasik is the author of 19 books, including “ The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around America’s Unsustainable American Dream ” (Wiley, 2009). He’s working a new book titled “A Natural Neighborhood,” which focuses on hyperlocal climate action. 

This article is reprinted by permission from  NextAvenue.org , ©2023 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

More from Next Avenue:

  • Can YOU Really Impact Climate Change?
  • Living an Active Environmental Lifestyle in Retirement
  • How Not to Fall for Bogus ‘Green’ Claims

Is your travel ‘green’ enough? 5 ways to help reduce your travel carbon footprint.

News from the Columbia Climate School

The 35 Easiest Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

carbon footprint for travel

In the face of the recent   National Climate Assessment report on the threats of climate change, the Trump administration continues to try to roll back environmental policies. Individuals, however, can make a difference by reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions. While there are many ways to do this and save energy—such as insulating your home, putting up solar panels, and planting trees—the following are the simplest and easiest changes you can make. They require little effort or financial investment.

First calculate your carbon footprint

Your carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases—including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and others—that you produce as you live your life. The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project  determined that in order to hold the global temperature rise to 2˚C or less, everyone on earth will need to average an annual carbon footprint of 1.87 tons by 2050. Currently, the average U.S. per capita carbon footprint is 18.3 tons. By comparison, China’s per capita carbon emissions are 8.2 tons. We all have a ways to go to get to 1.87 tons.

Calculate your carbon footprint at carbonfootprint.com to find out how you’re doing. The EPA’s carbon footprint calculator can show how much carbon and money you will save by taking some of these steps.

Here are some of the easiest ways you can start to shrink your carbon footprint.

carbon footprint for travel

1. Eat low on the food chain. This means eating mostly fruits, veggies, grains, and beans. Livestock —meat and dairy—is responsible for 14.5 percent of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from feed production and processing and the methane (25 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over 100 years) that beef and sheep belch out. Every day that you forgo meat and dairy, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 8 pounds—that’s 2,920 pounds a year. You can start by joining Meatless Mondays .

2. Choose organic and local foods that are in season. Transporting food from far away, whether by truck, ship, rail or plane, uses fossil fuels for fuel and for cooling to keep foods in transit from spoiling.

3. Buy foodstuffs in bulk when possible using your own reusable container.

4. Reduce your food waste by planning meals ahead of time, freezing the excess and reusing leftovers.

5. Compost your food waste if possible. (If you live in New York City, you can find a compost drop-off site here.

carbon footprint for travel

6. Don’t buy fast fashion. Trendy, cheap items that go out of style quickly get dumped in landfills where they produce methane as they decompose. Currently, the average American discards about 80 pounds of clothing each year, 85 percent of which ends up in landfills. In addition, most fast fashion comes from China and Bangladesh, so shipping it to the U.S. requires the use of fossil fuels. Instead, buy quality clothing that will last.

7. Even better, buy vintage or recycled clothing at consignment shops.

8. Wash your clothing in cold water. The enzymes in cold water detergent are designed to clean better in cold water. Doing two loads of laundry weekly in cold water instead of hot or warm water can save up to 500 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

9. Buy less stuff! And buy used or recycled items whenever possible.

10. Bring your own reusable bag when you shop.

11. Try to avoid items with excess packaging.

12. If you’re in the market for a new computer, opt for a laptop instead of a desktop . Laptops require less energy to charge and operate than desktops.

carbon footprint for travel

13. If shopping for appliances, lighting, office equipment or electronics, look for Energy Star products , which are certified to be more energy efficient.

14. Support and buy from companies that are environmentally responsible and sustainable.

15. Do an energy audit of your home. This will show how you use or waste energy and help identify ways to be more energy efficient.

16. Change incandescent light bulbs (which waste 90 percent of their energy as heat) to light emitting diodes (LEDs). Though LEDs cost more, they use a quarter of the energy and last up to 25 times longer. They are also preferable to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs, which emit 80 percent of their energy as heat and contain mercury.

17. Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug your electronic devices when they are not in use.

18. Turn your water heater down to 120˚F. This can save about 550 pounds of CO2 a year.

19. Installing a low-flow showerhead to reduce hot water use can save 350 pounds of CO2. Taking shorter showers helps, too.

20. Lower your thermostat in winter and raise it in summer. Use less air conditioning in the summer; instead opt for fans, which require less electricity. And check out these other ways to beat the heat without air conditioning.

21. Sign up to get your electricity from clean energy through your local utility or a certified renewable energy provider. Green-e.org can help you find certified green energy providers.


Because electricity increasingly comes from natural gas and renewable energy, transportation became the major source of U.S. CO2 emissions in 2017. An average car produces about five tons of CO2 each year (although this varies according to the type of car, its fuel efficiency and how it’s driven). Making changes in how you get around can significantly cut your carbon budget.

carbon footprint for travel

22. Drive less. Walk, take public transportation, carpool, rideshare or bike to your destination when possible. This not only reduces CO2 emissions, it also lessens traffic congestion and the idling of engines that accompanies it.

23. If you must drive, avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration. Some studies found that aggressive driving can result in 40 percent more fuel consumption than consistent, calm driving.

24. Take care of your car. Keeping your tires properly inflated can increase your fuel efficiency by three percent; and ensuring that your car is properly maintained can increase it by four percent. Remove any extra weight from the car.

25. When doing errands, try to combine them to reduce your driving.

26. Use traffic apps like Waze  to help avoid getting stuck in traffic jams.

27. On longer trips, turn on the cruise control, which can save gas.

28. Use less air conditioning while you drive, even when the weather is hot.

29. If you’re shopping for a new car, consider purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle . But do factor in the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of the car as well as its operation. Some electric vehicles are initially responsible for more emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles because of manufacturing impacts; but they make up for it after three years. This app  rates cars based on their mileage, fuel type and emissions from both the production of the car and, if they are EVs, from generating the electricity to run them.

30. If you fly for work or pleasure, air travel is probably responsible for the largest part of your carbon footprint. Avoid flying if possible ; on shorter trips, driving may emit fewer greenhouse gases.

carbon footprint for travel

32. Fly nonstop since landings and takeoffs use more fuel and produce more emissions.

33. Go economy class. Business class is responsible for almost three times as many emissions as economy because in economy, the flight’s carbon emissions are shared among more passengers; first class can result in nine times more carbon emissions than economy.

34. If you can’t avoid flying, offset the carbon emissions of your travel.

Carbon offsets

A carbon offset is an amount of money you can pay for a project that reduces greenhouse gases somewhere else. If you offset one ton of carbon, the offset will help capture or destroy one ton of greenhouse gases that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. Offsets also promote sustainable development and increase the use of renewable energy.

This calculator estimates the carbon emissions of your flight and the amount of money needed to offset them. For example, flying economy roundtrip from New York to Los Angeles produces 1.5 tons of CO2; it costs $43 to offset this carbon.

You can purchase carbon offsets to compensate for any or all of your other carbon emissions as well.

The money you pay goes towards climate protection projects. Various organizations sponsor these projects. For example, Myclimate funds the purchase of energy efficient cookstoves in Rwanda, installing solar power in the Dominican Republic, and replacing old heating systems with energy efficient heat pumps in Switzerland. Cotap  sustainably plants trees in India, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Nicaragua to absorb CO2; you can sign up for monthly offsets here. Terrapass  funds U.S. projects utilizing animal waste from farms, installing wind power, and capturing landfill gas to generate electricity. It also offers a monthly subscription for offsets.

Get politically active

carbon footprint for travel

35. Finally—and perhaps most importantly since the most effective solutions to climate change require governmental action— vote! Become politically active and let your representatives know you want them to take action to phase out fossil fuels use and decarbonize the country as fast as possible.

Related Posts

Rising Wheat Prices and Unprecedented Demonstrations: Pakistani Protestors Demand Autonomy

Rising Wheat Prices and Unprecedented Demonstrations: Pakistani Protestors Demand Autonomy

In the Jersey Suburbs, a Search for Rocks To Help Fight Climate Change

In the Jersey Suburbs, a Search for Rocks To Help Fight Climate Change

Solar Geoengineering To Cool the Planet: Is It Worth the Risks?

Solar Geoengineering To Cool the Planet: Is It Worth the Risks?

Earth Month 2024 Banner

Celebrate over 50 years of Earth Day with us all month long! Visit our Earth Day website for ideas, resources, and inspiration.


thank you for this information, I do my share but could improve. As the richest people on earth use more carbon their should pay carbon tax.


I do agree with you Kalpna, the richest people use an average of 1000x times more (the richer the more they use), since they have mansions (requires a lot more power), boats, private aeroplanes etc. Their Co2 emissions are through the roof, so carbon tax for the rich (especially ultra rich) would go a huge way to offsetting their extravagant lifestyles and the world in general and wouldn’t even impact them hardly at all.

Ben Ben

Gee, I wonder how they got a million dollars, oh wait, because they work. And give others work. And TAX THEM? For what, they work hard and give others work and raising taxes is not ther answer, but lowering them is. But i guess its nice to have inflation and poverty, because of CO2. (My humble opinion.

Phil Penner

Humble is down to Earth, not exploiting others for the sake of acquiring more to fill one’s voracious consumerism habits. Taxing a high carbon consumption lifestyle sounds responsible and humble to me and I think it spiritually solid to create a carbon tax on all that we do to help bring our awareness and consumerism disease to a more humble place.

Bronwyn Theresa

Paying for your mistakes doesnt solve the problem. The biggest contributors pay so that people in poor countries end up changing their habits and end up planting more trees to compensate for the habits of the rich. This is not just nor climate justice. The perpetrators need to change their habits, their governments should govern their spending habits better.

Melanie Trotter

Just because a person has wealth does not mean that they live extravagantly. That is an assumed generalization. Why don’t we say tax the mansion, not anyone “wealthy enough to own one.” Some people of means Do choose simple lifestyles. Why punish them simply because they have the financial resources to be extravagant?

Yutang Xie

Yeah, there should be rules for emitting Co2 (like your electric reading shouldn’t be above a reasonable number) or there’ll be fines. Taxes will be for the extra emitters, like the rich people. Taxes depend on their wealth and how much they emit.

Wolf Kesley

Agreed. Taxes these days are getting harder to pay and by the time I’m dead, we will probably still have a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But then again, some things DO need carbon dioxide to live.


PGE CA is starting to make customers more aware of electric usage via monthly comparisons of your home’s usage versus more acceptable usage based on a number of specifications. Rates are also increasing based on when it’s more expensive to use during a 24 hour period. Our high rate time is 4-9PM


All these rich people don’t even care about this Earth. I mean Jeff Bezos went to space! Vladimir Putin has a yacht that’s roughly 2 million dollars. AND THEY DO NOTHING ABOUT IT. They could be helping their home, but children(or people who have been rich their whole lives) don’t understand anything about poverty. And they never will. We need to make a change for the better of humankind.


I totally agree. But also I think you mean $200 million. $2mill wouldn’t even pay for yearly upkeep for super yachts. I know as my friend works on one, and the maintenance costs are over $10mill per year 🙂 Peace.


I always follow your Blogs. They are very informative. I get information about various topics from them. I also want to share my blog with you. You will get information about the Arlo app from it. Thank you

Mat Damon

On god, I think that a richer people should be paying carbon tax because they are using much more carbon than lower pay/lower class people

Joseph Mitchener

In your list of “ways to reduce your carbon footprint” I notice that you forgot to mention the single most important thing a family can do: have one fewer children. Do I sense fear of stating the unpopular?


Popular or not, you may be wrong because people are both the cause of and solution to all their problems. People are not wolves. With wolves and chickens, the more wolves: the fewer chickens, and the fewer wolves: the more chickens. With people, it is just the opposite: the more people you get more chickens not less. That extra kid may contribute to sustainablility.


I see your viewpoint. If one is living sustainably and encourages other people to do so, the benefits of that person living on the planet (through getting other people to reduce their environmental impact) likely exceeds the personal carbon footprint of that person.


Jim, I agree!


I agree Jim, fewer consumers, polluters, destroyers, less harm to the environment.

George Agamaite

Or getting rid of family pet, 30% of CO’3 related to meat production


Family pet = meat production? Benefits of pets is tremendous – safety, assist handicapped, therapy animals, provide comfort and companionship, reduce blood pressure and anxiety, etc .If you are referring to the fact that they eat pet foods, most pet foods are made from meat scraps (parts not sold for human consumption) and include vegetables. Also, changes in feed for farm animals has reduced gas emissions.

Tasneem A

I don’t think that a family pet can be produced to meat but you have the right idea



Melissa L Meier

Lol you all are all for less babies but not for less pets. Lord the internet is funny.

How about we start raising our children to be more earth friendly?? How about we expect companies ( including pet food) to produce in ways that are good for the environment? Why do we need to get rid of kids or pets?


I guess this is an old thread, but birds for instance eat the same things as their vegan owners. We had broccoli spears, edamame beans, a few pasta rotinis, a few spoons of corn kernals, and the parrot had some organic Harrison feed pellets with vitamins, plus a splay of fresh pea pods. I had mung dahl on quinoa later on with kale, he had another round of pellets for dinner, apple juice and pea pods. Parrots need adopting, if anyone wants a good pet, check your computer for parrot rescue or exchange sites. Lots of loving companions that need homes….and they like what we like to eat….bananas and oranges, but mostly local stuff, zuccini and corn this time of year and into fall.


They fear underpopulation spesifically, which is already a danger in places like China & Europe, where the elderly outnumber anyone under 12


Thanks for the tips. However, #32 which advises non-stop flying is unlikely to be true most of the time as non- stop flights tend to burn large quantities of fuel carrying the additional fuel mass. In general a 50/50 split is the most fuel efficient way to take a long flight.


Charge by weight for flying (person + luggage)

Bruce Wade

Maybe we should consider adding one more idea. #36. Save carbon rich material from turning into CO2. Reduce your carbon footprint by keeping dead plant around longer. A leaf falls on the ground and is decomposed this year. I dry a leaf and put it a book and can be there in 100 years.


This is what the Japanese government does: if you build a house of wood, you get a huge cheque of about $8,000USD from the government for storing CO2 in your house.


Your point about eating less meat, er maybe even going full vegan is incorrect. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter one thing what you eat. Meat might be responsible for more greenhouse gasses, but for vegitarians they cut down millions of acres of forest eacht year to provide the room to grow their crops (Just look at the soy farms in Brazil and the palm olive fields in Malaysia). Deforestation causes far more greenhouse gas emission than cattle, and it also takes away the only means by which CO2 can be removed from the air. This problem is caused by overpopulation, not meat.

Sarah Fecht

We can both agree that deforestation is a big problem for climate change. However, it takes 12 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of beef. It is therefore much more efficient, and requires less land and deforestation, if we just eat the grain itself. It’s like cutting out the middleman, only the middleman = cows 🙂

Other interesting stats here: http://holdthebeef.org/#new-page-4


cows can and do eat grass. Grass is a huge CO2 sink. Buy grass fed. Broccoli will use more land and give you less nutrition. Hooved animals walked this earth in large numbers before humans concentrated them in fences and farms.

I though to make meat all you do is kill and animals, cook it, then eat it…?

Renee Cho

Actually 70 to 75% of the world’s soy is used for animal feed for chickens, pigs, cows and farmed fish. After beef, which is #1, soy is the second largest cause of deforestation.

glenda wachter

I am a vegan and have solved the problem of soy and palm oil. I don’t use either, and am a healthy vegan.


Solution could be to stop over eating, veg or meat and stop wasting food. I think food industry should also be penalized. One of the culprits in my opinion are supermarkets. They buy cheap and more and waste a lot as their pricing takes wasting into account. Local govt should monitor and penalize if they waste food items and simultaneously reduce the expiry date of the food items, this will deter industry to mass produce anything edible. These are scalable and I believe would be very effective.

Packaging is also a problem. A 750 ml bottle for wine weighs 750 gm – very inefficient. Lots of energy wasted even if recycled. Ban wine, beer, drinks in glass bottles?


I’m an Ag student and I’m actually doing some research for an Ag Issues project for FFA and I noticed that you might be thinking of this the wrong way. I grew up on a commercial cattle ranch and I obviously agree with you that cutting out meat isn’t the way to go. Growing up in a rural farmland area and being a member of FFA I have always thought of the crop industry and the cattle/meat industry as a united industry: the Agricultural Industry. But I of course realize that not everyone has this experience. I don’t know if this is going to make much sense but what I’m trying to say is that this issue is not CROPS vs. MEAT. We as the agricultural industry raise cattle for dairy and meat products AND we grow the crops necessary for people who choose to be either vegan or vegetarian. It’s not really two separate industries that are competing for your attention, it’s only one. I cannot say anything about other places like Brazil and Malaysia but here in the United States, the agricultural industry is CONSTANTLY working to improve our methods of farming and ranching to emit less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. I would also like to say that I am slightly disappointed in an institution like Columbia University for blaming climate change on cattle burping methane into the atmosphere. Cows do burp methane into the atmosphere, this is true, but what people always seem to forget is that this is a part of the natural carbon cycle. Key word there: NATURAL. These cattle have been doing this since the beginning of ranching methods and before that, the hundreds of thousands of Bison that used to roam the great plains did the same thing. We cannot blame cattle for doing what they are designed to do. Anyway, sorry for rambling on, hope that this possibly helped someone.


Acarnes, this is really poor logic. Cows do “naturally” produce GHGs. But we have 94.8 million cows in the US. That’s almost 1 cow for every 3 people. There is nothing natural about industrial agriculture, and quantity of the GHG source is more important than whether or not it existed in some capacity pre-industrialization. As someone mentioned above, it takes 12 lbs of grain to make 1 lb of beef (not to mention water!). If more people move to substitute more plants for beef, you can feed the same amount of people with less cows, as that 12 lbs of grain can feed more people than 1 lb of beef. This clearly reduces carbon footprint, as it reduces overall consumption and agricultural production per person. This may not be in your best interests as someone going into the Ag industry, which I’m sure informs some of your opinion there, but that doesn’t make it any less true.


hello, the supermarkets wouldnt know what hit them if we all ate less meat, that would reduce in food wastage too, but im sure they would adjust!

Can’t believe anyone would give a thumbs down for facts.

Frances Griffiths

Only 6% of the crop grown on land cleared in Brazil for soya production, goes to feed people. 94% goes to feed animals and chickens to provide food for meat eaters. It takes much less land to feed people directly with plant food than it would to grow the food to feed the animals with which to feed those people. If we all are a vegetarian or vegan diet we would need less land and more could be left as wild forest to absorb and store carbon.


Hey Patric, I just think that your forgetting that we use a large areas to grow crops to then feed live stock, much more then it would take to feed the human population. Also cows produce methane.


they cut down those forests to make room for livestock it takes a lot less room for a vegetarian or vegan diet than one that has meat I am not vegan or vegetarian but you have a thing backwards.


Hi Patric, I definitely see what you are saying with regards to Soy production. Indonesian and Malaysian Rainforest are cut down for both palm oil and soy production. This accounts for around 10% of the problem each, which is still a significant proportion. Beef production, however, is 85% of the problem and a lot of Soy Beans are grown as cattle feed as grazing ground is not possible without the rainforest. This means that beef and dairy production are the huge contributors to climate change as they also include a vast proportion of the requirement for soy. If veganism isn’t for you, you’d be better to switch to white meats such as chicken as they take up less physical space and require less logging or land degradation than beef production (but still have greater carbon and ethical implications than a vegan diet).

Lancet studies in England put out a study. We cannot save the planet unless we stop herding beef. Cows grow for 2 years minimum before industrial harvesting=a lot of methane farts and belches. Ruminants. The study showed less beef and less lamb on the plates of the world to save the planet. Also think of all the heart surgery from grease in our blood vessels these days. Less beef, then less colon cancer too, better health. The surgeon general in the US has stated it, but cattlemen won’t let the warning be printed on the meat packages. Eating red meat has been proved to be hazardous to human health. Lobbyists deny the truth. Big meat is full of toxic material in the animal fat, and big fish too. The meat eaters make vegans pay for their medical bills, which are enormous. Japanese eat dolphin which is loaded with mercury.

It took 150 million years to create the rain forest in Brazil. They should grow river turtles, not cattle, if they want meat in the Amazon. Cows weren’t meant to live on rich fertile forest land, trees live there and have rights to the soil they created via vegetation. It takes 1,000 gallons of water to make a pound of beef meat. Meat eater’s clothing is so hard to clean that maids must make hot, hot water and use lots of toxic soaps.

Why not just live clean? Lots of good nuts and apples to harvest. Tropical people are happy with bananas and peas, pineapple and all that juicy variety. They hardly eat the meat they grow on the fields they have created from destroyed forests. Rice is almost the divine of foods, with ginger and turmeric. Some beans and squash keep the soil good, and healthy soil grows all kinds of fruits and trees. We need good soil.

Cows eat too much before slaughter. If you must eat animal, better to eat rabbits and turtles, frog’s legs and snails. Use some locust “meat” to make your burgers. People can eat sea urchins that overpopulate the shores. People could fish them with a knife. Pig farms will have to close too. All that pollution and putrid decayed matter pigs produce will at last be gone. Farms were once sacred to nature. Soil was fertile, and so plentiful was food. The world was an Eden which will return. Nature has always favored that which really sustains her. There is enough vegan matter to feed all the billions of folks alive today, but it isn’t sourced out well. Too many meat eaters eat too much of it. Almost all of it … via the large industrial cow farms.


Patric, I agree with you at a certain point: Brazil, has and keeps the world largest green are. Only 8% of its territory is used to produce meat, beans, coconuts farms and so on. It is the only country in the world that does somethong to keep his green area. I know about it, I lived 20 years in South America and I know how tough they are regarding keeping their green amazon. I used to work for the government, I used to work with territory planning and development of sustainable activities such as economics based o local vocation and load capacity of the environment.


There is a massive misconception about soy. (77%) Most of the soy grown is used worldwide is used exclusively as animal feed and only 7% is used for direct human consumption. Soy is a great source of nutrients to the human diet. https://ourworldindata.org/soy#:~:text=More%20than%20three-quarters%20%2877%25%29%20of%20global%20soy%20is,as%20tofu%2C%20soy%20milk%2C%20edamame%20beans%2C%20and%20tempeh .


77% of farmland goes to meat. 80% of deforestation goes to livestock. 97% of US soy (which you mentioned) goes to livestock.) The problem is meat.


I’m surprised no one has mentioned that there are alternatives to traditional livestock, and fish for meat/protein. What about bug protein, i.e. cricket ranches and/or the many, many plants that are high in protien that do not use anywhere near the resources of traditional lifestock and crops. There are so many alternatives to growing corn, wheat, and soybeans and raising cattle, chickens, etc. The ag economy is profitable, and the lobbyist are plentiful and powerful. Same as the oil industry. If you want to be a future farmer in America, then thinking way outside of the traditional scope of what is considered farming and ranching must be considered. Innovation in that sector is not all that innovative. Crops and livestock still require enormous amounts of resources, that is inescapable. Buying and growing locally produced food sources can save money and reduce carbon emissions and connects us in our communities. Americans have gotten far from that concept; we all expect that we should be able to go down to the local Wal-Mart and get everything we need. Wal-Mart put all the mom and pop entrepreneurs out of business, and the tax incentives and crop insurance programs developed in the early 1980’s that incentivized growth put a lot of small farming operations out of business, like my own family and many, many farming operations. This concept that we must always be in a financial growth pattern is exactly what is going to cause our own demise.


Hello there! Terrific points about energy conservation and carbon footprint reductions. Props to the author(s)! I happen to run a blog devoted to renewables and energy efficiency and thought one of my articles about energy audit tools might be useful to your readers if you incorporate it in this article.

Here it goes: https://www.everysolarthing.com/blog/energy-audit-tools/ There are no ads or affiliate links whatsoever.

Either way, keep up the important work of spreading a word about environmentally friendly lifestyle.


How can I reduce my carbon footprint and still be warm

Neil Leary

Lots of options. Get a programmable thermostat and set it so that you are comfortable but not crazy hot or cold; seal air leaks in your home; add insulation; don’t leave doors & windows open when running furnace or AC; reduce the temperature setting of your hot water heater to 120 F; choose to live close to where you work and shop so that you can walk, ride a bike, or take public transit; show up at public meetings to advocate for mixed use zoning, higher density zoning, public transit; choose renewable energy if your state/city allows you to choose your electricity supplier; eat a bit less beef, switching to a bit more poultry and/or grains, beans, veggies; buy less stuff – take care of what you own, make it last a long time, reuse, repair, use reusable water bottles and coffee cups, don’t waste $ on flashy objects that end up not really bringing you joy. No doubt you and others can think of even more options.

The point is, we don’t need to live hard, cruel lives of depravation to reduce our carbon footprints. A lot can be accomplished through thoughtful choices.

A good old fashioned sweater.

I know people who keep the heat at 80 and wear a T-shirt around inside when its 20 degrees out. Its a reasonable sacrifice to make to live at a comfortable 65, and if you can’t handle that, Goodwill has sweaters for cheap.

buy thrifted clothing !!!


Can you say more about how using reusable bags reduces the carbon footprint please? we are trying to pass a bag ban in my town and need all the solid scientific data we can get.


Going politically active doesn’t necessarily lower your carbon footprint, it can force the entire country’s carbon footprint down, and as a result, yours. For example, if you voted for a law to shut down a coal powered power plant and replace it with a solar or wind farm, you would be cutting down on an entire organization’s carbon footprint, and not just your own.

A plastic bag is equal to about 1 drop of crude oil. Driving to the supermarket consumes at least 10 drops of oil/petrol per kilometre. Bags are litter but driving is much worse for carbon footprint.


not a scientist or anything, but in order to produce single-use plastic bags they have to use crude oil and this produces a lot of greenhouse gases/carbon emissions, and they only get used once! with reusable cloth bags (sometimes people have reusable bags made of other materials), it has a different amount of emissions produced (generally less, if it’s cloth and not plastic) and then this also pays off because you aren’t producing more emissions each time you go shopping because you can reuse the bag. But someone mentioned that cars use more crude oil than a plastic bag, which is true, so walk/ride to the grocery store, or make sure you are running other errands at the same time in order to not waste fuel or anything 🙂 (and buy an EV if u can!)

Siti Nur Amalia

Thanks a lot for the tips.. by the way, you mention that better to wash in cold water.. what will happen if we wash with warm water?is there any risk?


I don’t think there’s any risk except that it takes energy to heat water, therefore higher carbon footprint


This is very informative always trying to cut down on my impact especially since we never know when we’re gonna need filtered air don’t want it to be in my life time but at this rate it might


We all need to work harder to save our environment


Finally an article that actually lays out what each of us can do. The problem seems so overwhelming.


Yes it may do but all helps even just small things. Just thinking about what we can do will lead to positive changes be it small to start with but may be a big thing in the near future.

isabelle lupton

I think all of these re great ideas, but to add one, i would like to say that we try to make clothes out of the scraps of cloth that are going to the landfill.

Elizabeth Carss

And repair your clothes

Recent gift was a rug made in Scotland from recycled wool.

hello, i am in 4rth grade, and my idea is that we try to get things that will fill the landfill, so when we don’t buy them, they will go to the landfill. when we buy fancy cloths, that is wasting water, which is not good, but old cloths are used, so you are not using new ones!


I see your point but another point of view is, if you start buying the product constantly, the company will produce more, and the more product you make the more Co2 is produced through the factories.


people need to keep protesting in Brazil so the president of Brazil can stop doing bad stuff to the earth


hi i am in 4th grade and i think you should turn of all the light when you leave the house,use self chargers to charge your phones,and have solar panels insted of wasting electricety.

ride a bike or walk if youare going somewere.also if it is a mile drive if ir is less then walk or drive

Becca/<3 dogs

hi i’m Becca and i’m in 4th grade my idea is i think we need to stop cutting down trees because it uses up a lot of units

we have to try to help the planet


I am wondering about point 12. Do you have any more information about why a laptop should be more efficient than a desktop. I thought its just the same parts put together in a different housing.

James King

Desktops are plugged in so can use whatever power they like and function well. Laptops need to be portable so the longer the battery life, the better. Therefore, a laptop needs to be more eco to increase their sales as people buy laptops with longer battery life.


But you also need to put in mind the performance. If loading a video on a laptop takes 2 hours to upload on a desktop it might take only 45min. Desktops have an amazing performance. Also on a desktop, you can put it in performance mode where the ratios are equwielent.

Laptop components are designed and fabricated to use less power.

Seymour Diamond

Just came upon this site in search of ways I can reduce my own carbon footprint and found some good ideas that I will try to implement. I have found that corporations, in their search of profits, tend to move their manufacturing off shore to jurisdictions where there are little or no environmental rules and then import these products back to western countries. I believe that we need a Carbon Footprint Tax on goods imported from polluting countries and that this tax be dedicated solely to reducing national carbon footprints eg. Converting coal fired generating plants to gas etc. Not sure how feasible this concept would be but it would be a way to entice polluting countries to clean up their own environmental practices. As we are having our federal elections this month in Canada I will be visiting each candidate in my riding to suggest this idea.

Patrica Pattington

what does getting politically active have to do with my carbon footprint ?


Going politically active doesn’t necessarily lower your carbon footprint, it can force the entire country’s carbon footprint down, and as a result, yours. For example, if you voted for a law to shut down a coal powered power plant and replace it with a solar or wind farm, you would be cutting down on an entire organization’s carbon footprint, and not just your own.


I do my part and after reading this article, I feel my husband and I definitely exceed these points. We hardly go out, so therefore we are not driving, we shower twice a week, we wash clothes on cold, (we don’t have that many loads because we don’t go out so therefore it’s basically pjs and underwear we are washing, we haven’t travelled in 18 years, we hardly eat meat, (we don’t eat much as it is), we do not buy clothing and use the clothes we have whether they are worn out or not, where we live, (Hudson Valley, no one cares what you look like), so therefore we are not getting rid of 80 tons of clothes a year. We sit in the dark at night, we hardly watch tv, we don’t use our computers. I’m 53 and he’s 69. We basically stopped living. However, what are your thoughts on pellet stoves to heat the home? We live in a trailer.


Thank you so much i needed this ◕‿◕


This is a helpful article and thank you. I am curious, at the institutional level, what are top tier schools like Columbia doing to demonstrate their commitment to going green? Limiting staff air travel, requiring alternating in office and WFH staff schedules, etc. These institutions are leading the charge in thought, which is incredibly important, but are they also implementing these ideas more broadly?

Hi Kella, thanks for your interest! You can read an overview of Columbia’s sustainability initiatives here: https://sustainable.columbia.edu/

Naveen Mittal

Good Information on carbon footprints reduction. Actually everybody is nowadays aware that how to reduce the carbon footprints, but the question is? are we really honest in following the same? Lets commit that we will do atleast our part and if everyone will do his part… than the mother earth will be green and healthy!


I disagree with the suggestion to buy a laptop over a desktop, a laptop has a much lower life cycle and is not easily upgradable. If you got a desktop instead, while you might use more electricity, it is better due to avoiding more computer parts being thrown away. Desktops being upgradeable means you can swap parts that need to be upgraded instead of buying a whole new system everytime it becomes unusable. For example a monitor does not become unusable at the same rate as a CPU, but by getting a laptop you end up getting a new monitor everytime you get a new system despite the older one being perfectly fine.


Thanks for sharing! Avoiding flying is hard. But the pandemic has had a huge impact on air travel and we are seeing more and more of our clients (honeymooners) take road trips. Hopefully this has helped reduce their carbon footprint.


If u become vegan u will have a lower carbon footprint

Carbon Offset Providers

Agree…. but we also have to stop burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and cement production. If we can do this, only then carbon footprint can be reduced.

No, I love my burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and pork.


Stop shopping at Trader Joe’s. Most of their packaged goods are made in Turkey, China, Vietnam, Bulgaria, etc. Orange carrot juice made in Turkey in glass bottles shipped to your local TJ’s and sold for 2.99 is a carbon disaster. TJ’s is mostly frozen dinners, highly packaged and processed foods, many with artificial flavoring and colors, high sodium and sugar and non-local produce wrapped individually in plastic and stryofoam. Walmart has better governance and transparency. Avoid Trader Joe’s at all costs.


thank you for helpimg me on a assinment i am going to make the world a better place


growing your own food and owning a few chickens is a really good way to help I think. Usually eggs from commercial farms are mass produced and are less quality.


Don’t buy toys that require batteries.

Hoe Sway

but what if I want to

Don’t go to or support: car races, hot air balloons, boats with motors, joy flights, cruise ships, jet skis etc.


Live healthfully. Healthy living & preventative care saves lots of resources.

This means cultivating a healthy body. Keeping a healthy mind

The healthcare system is full of high consumption (huge industry sector, single use everything, high energy resources.). I’m grateful resources exist but it’s best to consciously live the best you can in hopes of needing it as little as possible.

Animal feed is now being used that produces less methane in cows.

Btw, if you get breast cancer, the first thing you are told is do NOT eat soy. Many products include soy; oils labeled ‘vegetable oil’ are often 100% soy.

Also, not kidding: we tried plant based ‘fake meat’ and we had indigestion and gas for days.

Let’s go with Gore’s plan – less people. Not sure how he plans to achieve that.

Al gore has done really well with this ‘carbon offset’ business. He went from being worth $2 mil to hundreds of millions. His house in Nashville uses huge amounts of energy.

crusty bum hole

oh shoot guys this is a major problem. we have to….. CHANGE it’s so nice people care about this subject, soon all we’re gonna here about is this.

Payton Fritz

i think everyone should start to be more observant and have more respect for the things and people that put this world into shape. I also think pollution is one of the main problems and some people can fix that but chose not too and it has damaged our world.

Mark Bell

no one Ever Looks at a Shark and Tells Him That he is Destroying the Environment By Eating Other Fish. So Why do People Look At Meat Eaters and Say we Destroy The Environment?

If there were 8 billion sharks there would be no fish.

Jennie M Talley

I am beginning my journey to reduce my carbon footpring


I agree with all these things, but the 8.7 tons per capita is misleading for china as china has ~1.3 billion people inside their nation while America only has ~350 million, If you don’t know per capita is basically per person. So while china may have a lower per capita they have 3 times more people. if china had the same amount of people as the united states it would equate to ~32.3 tons per capita, giving them a much higher per capita than the U.S.

Tyler Scicluna

To say myself, I think this will help our planet during COVID and to increase the population of endangered creatures.

Marian Chamberlain

Great information. Thanks.


I’m in the midst of reading the article right now. SO GLAD TO HAVE FOUND U!!! I only recently heard on NPR that residential homes emit more carbon than I ever knew about and am madly trying to learn of all of the ways that we can contribute for the good of the climate. Am very excited to hear this news. Thank you all so much for being there and for the work that you all are doing!


Love this article!




Yes save the world please our world needs help! *^*

Every aspect of everyone’s life needs to change.

Jon Tommins

Everyone must go vegan.


You can’t say everyone “Must” go vegan. It is healthy to eat meat and other stuff, not everyone can be vegan it can make people sick if they were raised eating meat. Same with vegetables if someone who was raised eating vegetables then meat may make them sick. All though neither meat or vegetable community is wrong. Though I find it rude for you to say “Everyone must go vegan” I do support you for being vegan 🙂


I think some of yall are all missing the point of the article.

John Q Smith

? What do all our congressmen and Senators drive??


Simple and applicable suggestions – Fantastic article, thank you

Get the Columbia Climate School Newsletter →

Carbon footprint report 2023: lower energy use, but more business travel

University of Twente’s carbon footprint report for 2023 has been published. In the carbon footprint report, you can find all information on emissions caused by UT, including those caused by external suppliers, business trips and commuting. On paper, carbon emissions have increased in 2023 compared to 2022, because UT decided not to compensate for emissions caused by gas use in UT buildings through certificates like in 2022 and because of an increase in business travel. However, the total energy consumption of UT dropped by more than 9% compared to 2022, while gas use dropped by 23%.

The carbon footprint report is published by UT’s SEE programme in collaboration with Realised .

Total carbon footprint

  • Read the carbon footprint report 2023 on the UT Carbon Platform
  • Go to the carbon footprint overview page with older reports

carbon footprint for travel

UT carbon footprint 2019-2023

carbon footprint for travel

UT Carbon footprint 2023

Green electricity and VER certificates

Most of the sharp drop in emissions from 2022 onwards is a result of UT purchasing green electricity through Guarantees of Origin (GoO) since then. A large part of the increase in 2023 compared to 2022 can similarly be attributed to the fact that unlike in 2022, UT did not compensate its emissions from gas use through Voluntary Emission Reduction (VER) certificates. Without these certificates, UT’s footprint in 2022 would have been 8.3 kton, higher than our footprint in 2023.

The decision not to buy VER-certificates again in 2023 was made because while on paper such certificates reduce emissions from gas use to zero, their actual effectiveness is the subject of much discussion. Additionally, UT continues its focus on the prevention of emissions by further reducing gas use in UT buildings.

Lower gas and energy use

In 2023, UT’s gas use was reduced by 23% compared to 2022, for a total of more than 45% since 2019. This was mainly achieved by connecting more and more UT buildings to the district heating network , replacing gas as a source of heat for buildings. The biggest example in 2023 was the move of the ITC faculty from their gas-heated building in the city centre to their new building on campus, which is connected to the heating network. Most of the remaining gas use of UT is from buildings off-campus, such as Pakkerij, and air humidification in laboratories. UT is working on alternatives where possible.

Total energy use at UT in 2023 dropped by more than 9% compared to 2022, after an increase in the corona period due to increased ventilation demands. UT will continue to work on lowering its energy use, for example through making older buildings such as the Cubicus more sustainable, increased electricity generation on campus and reducing user-influenced energy use, for example in laboratories .

carbon footprint for travel

UT's total energy use 2014-2023

Business travel

The largest increase in CO 2 emissions can be found in scope 3 (indirect emissions): business travel. UT staff travelled more in 2023 than they did the year before. This includes all modes of transportation: train, (electric) car, coach, and plane. De uitstoot van vluchten steeg met bijna 19% ten opzichte van 2022. Deze stijging wordt voor het grootste deel veroorzaakt door een groei in langeafstandsvluchten (>2500 km). The increased number of flights more than compensated for gains made in other areas in scope 3. In total, flights are responsible for 37% of the total emissions caused by our university. UT continues to encourage alternative modes of transportation, such as the train  through the Train Map .

Since 2014, UT has published a report on our carbon footprint every year. The aim is transparency about our impact and to gain insight into causes and areas for improvement. Carbon data is collected and stored in our  Carbon Platform , with the aim of increasing the frequency of data collection and enabling better monitoring, improving communication and creating more impactful policies.

The data in scope 3 is based on information provided by external partners. Because more and more of our partners provide data and it becomes more accurate, this can lead to an increase in reported emissions. Also, the data is sometimes a best estimate: the emissions on commuting, for example, are based on a survey on the travel behavior of staff and students. As this was conducted for the first time in 10 years in 2022, there is a substantial change from previous years. This leads to a decrease in reported emissions, mostly because students indicated they commute to campus by car much less often than 10 years ago.

More recent news

Benelux's First E-Methanol System Constructed by HoSt Group & University of Twente with €4 Million Subsidy

  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

Composite of wedding menu, planes and flowers.

How to have a sustainable wedding: six tips for a greener ‘I do’

From excessive travel to food waste, weddings can have a huge carbon footprint. Here’s how to plan an eco-friendly celebration

A wedding is a couple’s big day. Unfortunately, it can also have a big carbon footprint.

The average American wedding creates around 60 metric tons of CO 2 – the carbon equivalent of 71 round-trip flights from New York to LA. You’d need to plant roughly 60 trees and let them grow for 100 years to sequester that amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And with more than 2m marriages taking place in the US alone in 2022 , the wedding industry’s environmental impact adds up.

Kat Wray’s eco-ethical wedding resource site, Mindfully Wed, features a free wedding footprint calculator anyone can use to estimate and reduce the impact of their nuptials. Wray, who is also a wedding photographer, says that the most carbon-intensive elements of a wedding are air travel, high guest count, menu items containing meat, food waste and imported flowers, in that order. Details like attire choices and decor can also add to a wedding’s carbon footprint.

“I encourage couples to consider wedding planning as an opportunity for joyful activism,” says Wray. “Weddings can be a way to use your consumer power to show your guests what’s important to you, and what you believe in.”

For those planning a wedding, experts suggested six key ways to make it more environmentally friendly.

Reduce travel emissions

Deciding on a location can be difficult and depends on many factors. But if you want to prioritize a low level of travel emissions, the best approach is choosing a venue close to where the majority of your guests live. Holding the ceremony, reception and photo session at the same place also cuts down on transportation.

If a particular destination is non-negotiable, couples can consider a venue that is central for most guests or group transportation, like shuttles, to reduce the number of vehicles attendees use. “If everyone’s coming from all corners of the world, you could decide to make the guest list smaller, so at least less people will be traveling,” suggests Wray.

Make your menu green

Opting for local caterers who source seasonal food further reduces transportation emissions. “It’s also about supporting the local economy, and building biodiversity locally,” says Michelle Miles, who runs the UK wedding vendor collective Sustainable Wedding Alliance. Because unpredictable factors like weather can affect the availability of local produce, Miles recommends couples keep their menus general: for example, “not committing to, say, local green beans, but rather saying ‘seasonal green vegetables’ so that you have the flexibility to deliver”.

long table of food with people reaching to fill plates

Meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production, with 1kg of beef creating 70kg of emissions, meaning that the most sustainable wedding feast is a vegetarian or vegan one.

If budget constraints make sustainable catering unfeasible, or meat must be on the menu, plan the meals to minimize waste and ask your venue if they can permit guests to take leftover food home or staff to eat it (many venues discard leftovers because of local health codes).

“Every staff member got a couple meals out of our event,” says Natalie Goldfarb, 30, who had an eco-conscious wedding in Poughkeepsie in 2022. Food-based party favors can also be a smart way to give your guests something they will use up, rather than a keepsake that could end up in the garbage. “I did glass bottles of tea leaves as a tchotchke,” says Goldfarb.

Choose local flowers for decoration

Flowers that have grown locally are more eco-friendly than those imported internationally. Cut flower farms are becoming more common in the US and the UK, for instance, so there may be a wider variety of blooms to choose from than you expect. You can also consider renting potted plants and silk bouquets.

If your favorite flowers are out of season or not local, consider using a mix of local greens and a few imported flowers, and look into organizations in your area that recycle wedding flowers for other venues, events or activities, such as flower-arranging at senior care facilities.

after newsletter promotion

Wear sustainable clothing

A wedding dress and veil hanging from some shelves.

When it comes to wedding apparel, sustainability and extravagance don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Many businesses now specialize in vintage and resale formalwear. Goldfarb looked for her wedding dress at the New York non-profit Housing Works , which hosts an annual Bride on a Buck wedding sale, and ultimately had a dress made from recycled poly lining and natural fabrics by the Brooklyn design studio Loulette . For bridal parties, mismatched dresses are fashionable – bridesmaids can wear pieces they already own or select something they’ll wear again.

Consider an heirloom ring

Vintage rings do not require any new materials to be made or mined, making them the most sustainable option for wedding jewelry.

When it comes to sourcing precious stones like diamonds, mining can be rife with environmental and social issues, and synthesizing them is extremely energy-intensive. This means the question of whether mined or lab-grown stones are more sustainable is not always clear cut. If you’re buying a new stone, seek out jewelers who use certified Sustainability Rated stones and adhere to the Kimberley Process to ensure their wares are conflict-free. While no gemstone mining is free of ethical and environmental concerns, precious stones such as sapphires and emeralds generally come from smaller, more traceable mines than diamonds, making it easier for consumers to research their origins and impact.

The most sustainable wedding is an elopement, simply because they’re small.

Wray says her clients often confide that their dream wedding is an elopement, afterparty optional. This cuts out the need for sundries like groomsmen’s boutonnieres and seating charts and allows couples to use their budget for smaller-scale luxuries or other life needs. She encourages them to cast off the pressure to adhere to old traditions and define the purpose of their ceremony for themselves: “to decide, ‘What will be fun for us?’”

Some companies offer models that combine the low stress of elopement and the trappings of a traditional wedding with a sustainable twist. The Canada-based Pop-Up Chapel specializes in hyper-efficient ceremonies. It hosts 10 individual weddings for 10 couples over the course of one day, providing the venue, flowers, barware and music. For most, a city hall ceremony is the most readily accessible version of this sharing-economy style wedding. And for a dash of drama, get hitched in front of a Las Vegas Elvis who sees 20 couples a day. Cheap, fast and easy – it’s a classic for a reason.

  • Well actually
  • Speak now: the truth about weddings

Most viewed


  1. Carbon Footprint of Tourism

    carbon footprint for travel

  2. How to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Travels

    carbon footprint for travel

  3. Carbon Footprint of Tourism

    carbon footprint for travel

  4. Join us in our Carbon Offsetting Initiative!

    carbon footprint for travel

  5. 6 ways travelling professionals can cut their carbon footprint

    carbon footprint for travel

  6. Charted: Comparing the Carbon Footprint of Transportation Options

    carbon footprint for travel


  1. Which form of transport has the smallest carbon footprint?

    If you can't walk or cycle, then public transport is usually your best option. Trains are particularly low-carbon ways to travel. Taking a train instead of a car for medium-length distances would cut your emissions by around 80%. 4 Using a train instead of a domestic flight would reduce your emissions by around 86%. 5.

  2. Carbon offsetting: How to calculate your carbon footprint when you travel

    Tourism creates about 8% of the world's carbon emissions, according to Sustainable Travel International, a nonprofit organization that works with travelers, businesses and destinations to apply innovative conservation solutions to tourism. You can calculate your emissions for both everyday life and trips using a carbon footprint calculator.

  3. The carbon footprint of global tourism

    In 2013, international travel caused a carbon footprint of about 1 GtCO 2 e, or 23% of the global carbon footprint of tourism. Arrows point in the direction of embodied carbon flow, which—in ...

  4. 'Worse Than Anyone Expected': Air Travel Emissions Vastly Outpace

    Over all, air travel accounts for about 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions — a far smaller share than emissions from passenger cars or power plants.

  5. Travel Industry Takes Crucial First Step Toward Combating Climate

    The travel industry is a large contributor to global carbon emissions, with a footprint estimated between 8 and 11 percent of total greenhouse gases, according to the World Travel & Tourism ...

  6. This Graphic Maps the Greenest Modes of Transportation

    While the train from Toronto outperformed the SUV and the plane in fuel efficiency, its emissions were the highest of all modes, due to diesel fuel and a circuitous trip. CAR. With highway travel ...

  7. How to Travel More Sustainably

    Asking questions — both while you're traveling and, more important, before you book — is one of the most powerful things that travelers can do, said Gregory Miller, the executive director of ...

  8. Calculating Your Vacation's Carbon Footprint, One Travel Mode at a Time

    The tool tells users the carbon impact of each of their options, whether they travel by train, bus, gas-powered car, electric car or plane, and whether they stay in a tent, hostel or hotel.

  9. Big data reveals true climate impact of worldwide air travel

    Dec. 26, 2022 — Brown algae take up large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air and release parts of the carbon contained therein back into the environment in mucous form. This mucus is hard to ...

  10. Should you buy carbon offsets for your air travel?

    Purchasing carbon offsets—an investment into a project or action, like planting trees or building solar panels, to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. Airlines such as Delta, United, and British ...

  11. Personal Travel Carbon Footprint Worksheet

    Non-CO2 emissions for air travel are mostly nitrogen oxide emissions from aircraft flying over 9,000 meters. The emissions factors employed for air travel are provided by our source using an average Radiative Forcing Index of approximately 2.7. Non-CO2 emissions for hotel stays include N2O and CH4.

  12. How your flight emits as much CO2 as many people do in a year

    Taking one return flight generates more CO2 than citizens of some countries produce in a year. London-Rome. 234 kg CO2. average citizen emits less CO2 in a year. London-New York City. 986 kg ...

  13. 5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When Traveling

    Whenever possible on your travels, try to eat locally. Find farm-to-table spots, and dine in restaurants that tout locally sourced ingredients, and that celebrate traditional, local cuisine. Not ...

  14. Carbon neutral travel: how to reduce your carbon footprint

    Carbon neutral travel is a way to reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive difference in the world while having life-changing experiences. Travelers can contribute to carbon neutrality by avoiding air travel when possible, traveling close to home, choosing greener airlines, offsetting flight emissions, and more.

  15. It's time to limit how often we can travel abroad

    The idea of a carbon passport centers on each traveler being assigned a yearly carbon allowance that they cannot exceed. These allowances can then "ration" travel. This concept may seem ...

  16. 4 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When Traveling

    Beyond the metaphysical and environmental benefits of taking it slow, this approach can also reduce the cost of a trip. Rather than spending money on gas, take a local class or tour, or save it ...

  17. How much does air travel warm the planet? New study gives a figure

    Klöwer agreed that much of the decarbonizing power is in the hands of industry and government, but examining your own carbon footprint, reducing unnecessary travel, and engaging in the discussion ...

  18. Sustainable business travel: How to cut carbon footprints

    It is possible to reduce your carbon footprint when flying. Business travel was one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic, and remote and hybrid work are bringing its future into question. Travel remains an important way for people to connect, but aviation accounts for 2-3% of global emissions. Travelling economy class has half the CO2 ...

  19. What is a carbon footprint—and how to measure yours

    So, what exactly is a carbon footprint? According to Mike Berners-Lee, a professor at Lancaster University in the UK and author of The Carbon Footprint of Everything, it is "the sum total of all ...

  20. Air-travel climate-change emissions detailed for nearly 200 nations

    Air-travel climate-change emissions detailed for nearly 200 nations. Carbon emissions from flights that departed from low- and middle-income countries in 2019 totalled 417 million tonnes.

  21. Is your travel 'green' enough? 5 ways to help reduce your travel carbon

    5 ways to lower your travel carbon footprint. Do the math on carbon emissions. An online calculator can estimate the amount of carbon a trip will generate; Google Flights does the same for travel ...

  22. Gen Z travel trends 2024: Complex values will reshape the industry

    Younger travelers are seeking authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences while prioritizing a smaller carbon footprint, according to new data from Hopper. [Photo: Tima Miroshnichenko /Pexels] BY ...

  23. The 35 Easiest Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

    Reduce your carbon footprint with these 35 easy tricks. ... If you can't avoid flying, offset the carbon emissions of your travel. Carbon offsets. A carbon offset is an amount of money you can pay for a project that reduces greenhouse gases somewhere else. If you offset one ton of carbon, the offset will help capture or destroy one ton of ...

  24. Reduce your Business Travel Carbon Footprint

    Offset 100% of your business travel carbon emissions and get real-time, actionable information on your company's carbon impact. Business travel platform, TravelPerk aims to make business travel greener with new carbon offsetting program.

  25. Carbon footprint report 2023: lower energy use, but more business travel

    On paper, carbon emissions have increased in 2023 compared to 2022, because UT decided not to compensate for emissions caused by gas use in UT buildings through certificates like in 2022 and because of an increase in business travel. However, the total energy consumption of UT dropped by more than 9% compared to 2022, while gas use dropped by 23%.

  26. How to have a sustainable wedding: six tips for a greener 'I do'

    From excessive travel to food waste, weddings can have a huge carbon footprint. Here's how to plan an eco-friendly celebration A wedding is a couple's big day. Unfortunately, it can also have ...