It's well known now that flying has an impact on the environment because of the large carbon footprint it leaves, and a growing movement gaining global attention has taken shape.
It's called the "Greta Effect" (named after Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg) and "flygskam," which translates to flight shame. And the people of Sweden have listened, with 31 percent of travelers surveyed by Swedish Railways saying that they are instead opting for trains or other modes of transportation to travel.
A UBS survey of 6,000 respondents from Germany, France, the U.K., and the U.S. found that 21 percent of people have cut back on the number of flights they've taken in the past year because of climate concerns.
Flight shaming is only going to continue to grow. Recently, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were criticized for taking private planes on their travels (including to a Google talk on climate change). Last year, fans and critics alike were frustrated with Kim and Kanye for flying a private Boeing 747 with only a handful of people.
I've cut back on flights, and my friends who are also constantly crisscrossing the globe aren't posting about their flights as much as they used to. Flight shaming is making people who travel for a living think twice about their modes of transportation.
So, what can you do when you're expected to fly for business, but are also concerned about the environment?
1. Take more virtual meetings. If you can, work from home.
If you can avoid having to travel for meetings, take advantage of technology and conduct those meetings virtually. It saves time, money, and can get the job done without the added stress of travel. Plus, you don't have to worry about lugging materials around.
Additionally, if you can, work from home. Maybe even convince the boss that working from home will help with productivity. From an environmental standpoint, working from home reduces traffic and the use of vehicles to get around as well as the energy consumption in buildings.
2. Find alternate ways to travel. If you must fly, know where your money is going.
Because of the energy it takes to get to the skies, short flights emit more carbon emissions than long-haul, direct flights (though extremely long-haul flights need to carry extra fuel, which does increase their carbon footprint). So if you're flying to a place that is not too far away, find alternative routes. Plus, the amount of time it takes to fly may be similar to or even longer than the time it takes to drive.
Think about it. You need to arrive two hours early for a flight to get through security, wait for the flight to take off (with the potential for delays), fly to the destination, deplane, wait for luggage, and wait for a shuttle or other mode of transportation to your hotel, office, conference, etc. That's a lot of waiting.
If you must fly, try to go with airlines that have committed to reducing their carbon emissions. According to a report done by the Transition Pathway Initiative, EasyJet has pledged to cut its emissions (and is the only airline meeting aviation targets). On the other hand, Korean Air will actually be emitting more emissions by 2020, with no strong plan to prevent that.
Also, avoid flying first class. First-class seats take up more room, are heavier, and are said to have a carbon footprint that is three times greater than that of passenger seats in economy. According to Green Car Congress, "Flying first class on a single domestic round trip can contribute more greenhouse gas emissions than a year of driving."
3. Get involved in ways to fight back against climate change.
No one sets out to be shamed, but feeling shame isn't necessarily a bad thing. It invites the opportunity for discussion about what can be done. Talk to your representatives and business leaders about greener choices for your community. Donate to organizations committed to helping the environment.
4. Be aware of your carbon footprint. Consider carbon offsetting.
Generally, being aware of your carbon footprint is a good idea. You can calculate your individual footprint as well as your business's footprint on sites like Carbonfund.org (which some airlines have partnered with). You can also consider carbon offsetting.
Carbon offsetting is a way to donate monetary funds that are calculated by looking at how many emissions your travel is causing. For instance, sites like Atmosfair and Cool Effect help you calculate your travel emissions and then give you the option of donating the amount it would take to offset your flight. It would be about a $50 donation for a round-trip economy flight from Los Angeles to New York City on an average airline (given you wanted to offset your emissions 100 percent).
While carbon offsetting helps, be mindful of the bigger picture.