It’s no secret that business travel is a large contributor to global warming. However, more and more employees want to make their business travel more environmentally friendly. If you’re among them, the best place to get started is by learning how to track your travel emissions.
Why You Should Track Your Travel Emissions
If you’ve never considered learning to track your travel emissions before, there are myriad reasons why you might consider doing so, no matter where in the world you live. Just take a look at the current state of the business travel industry and its overall carbon footprint.
According to a Reuters report from last year, 1% of the population is responsible for all aviation emissions. Specifically in Europe, the report stated that “corporate travelers comprise about 12% of [air travel] customers but are responsible for 30% of emissions.”
Another report from the World Resources Institute states that air travel emissions are increasing 70% faster than expected. Global business travel currently accounts for up to 20% of those emissions.
Similarly, according to the World Economic Forum, first-class and business-class seats, like those often used by executives and other business travelers, account for a Co2 footprint about four times the size of an economy-class seat’s carbon footprint. Likewise, if you look at just a single global organization, they can easily wrack up a business travel carbon footprint that equates to the carbon footprint of thousands upon thousands of U.S. households combined.
In other words, while many employees are on board with their companies prioritizing eco-friendly travel measures (which is a good first step!), there’s still a long way to go.
If you feel your team isn’t doing quite enough to reduce their carbon emissions as related to business travel — and it wouldn’t be surprising if that were the case; the same World Economic Forum report linked above mentioned that only about 25% of studied organizations consider carbon footprints a top business travel concern — it might be up to you to start the conversation. This is where learning to track your travel emissions comes in.
As one op-ed recently published in Business Travel News stated, you can’t manage (or change!) what you’re not measuring. In order to begin lowering our travel emissions footprints, we must track our travel emissions footprints.
How to Track Your Travel Emissions Footprint
So how can you, as a business traveler, start to track your travel emissions and carbon footprint?
First, you must understand how much Co2 that various modes of transportation emit per mile traveled.
According to BlueSky, a plane produces 53.3 pounds of Co2 per mile flown; this means that if you fly from New York City to Los Angeles, the plane will emit approximately 65 short tons of Co2. (Per-passenger emissions for air travel are a little trickier to calculate, as it depends on the type of aircraft flown, number of passengers, etc.)
If you’re driving for your business trip rather than flying, though (also according to BlueSky), you’ll cut your environmental impact significantly. One gallon of gasoline produces about 18 pounds of Co2.
Trains, meanwhile, emit Co2 at a rate of 177 grams (or a little over a third of a pound) per passenger mile.
Doing the Math
Is it just too much math for you to calculate how much Co2 your business trip produces based on the rates above?
Luckily, there are a range of online tools at your disposal to help you track your travel emissions, and they will do the work for you.
For example, Google allows you to check carbon emissions for specific flights quickly and easily on Google Flights. (And if you’re booking a trip on Google Flights, you can also sort your flight options by emissions so that you only book flights considered “low emissions.” Likewise, Google Flights will list rail travel as an alternative option when booking, if available.)
You can also find a range of apps — such as the Commons app, Klima app or Capture app — that will track your overall carbon footprint, beyond travel, such as your carbon footprint as related to purchases and lifestyle choices.
That said, it’s always worth asking your company’s travel manager if they offer any carbon footprint tracking tools. This is becoming an increasingly common feature offered by travel management companies and within corporate travel management software, so there may be a business travel-specific tracking tool available to you that you’re just not aware of.
What to Do with the Information (and How to Lower Your Travel Emissions Footprint)
Once you track your travel emissions and have a good handle on how your individual business travel contributes to climate change, you can begin to make a positive impact.
Backed by your data, raise your company’s business travel carbon footprint as an area of concern. (You may be surprised at how many of your fellow business travelers and team members are likewise concerned.)
Pinpoint Your Company’s Biggest Travel Emissions Source
For many companies, it will clearly be air travel. For others, however, air travel may take a backseat to private car travel, especially if you frequently drive for regional trips or meetings.
Then, if you can, choose to travel in another, more eco-friendly manner- take the train. When trains aren’t available, carpool or opt for renting a hybrid or electric vehicle. When traveling a short enough distance, utilize public transit.
If you absolutely must fly, choose an economy-class seat (which boasts the lowest carbon footprint on a plane) or a low-emissions airline. Additionally, opt for direct flights rather than flights with layovers, which can further increase your trip’s carbon footprint.
Lastly, ask yourself — is this trip really necessary? Particularly in today’s age of remote work and virtual collaboration, many meetings can be easily conducted from the office or even at home without the need for excessive business travel.
If your organization wants to learn how to travel more sustainably, JTB Business Travel can help. Even if you don’t need a full-fledged travel program, you can still take advantage of our services and tools that can help further your (and your organization’s) sustainability goals.