7 ways to reduce your carbon footprint

It's easy to become a greener globetrotter — all it takes is some simple changes and a little extra planning to reduce your carbon footprint

By Helen Warwick
Published 2 Apr 2019, 13:57 BST
Hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand
Hiking at Milford Sound, New Zealand
Photograph by Getty Images

1. Pack light

Next time you cram your case to bursting, think again. Packing light not only saves time, it also lowers an airline's carbon emissions too — the lighter the aircraft, the less fuel it will burn. So leave the books at home and stick to an e-reader, take travel-size toiletries, and only bring clothes you'll actually wear to lighten the load. Pack a reusable water bottle, shopping bag and any other reusables to save on waste while you're overseas too.

2. Fly right

Not all airlines are the same — some are more efficient than others. A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation compared the fuel efficiency of 20 transatlantic carriers. Norwegian emerged as the most efficient, while British Airways trailed in last place, burning around 63% more fuel per passenger kilometre than Norwegian.

3. Go less luxe

No one is going to turn their nose up at first class seating, but the harsh reality is that premium seating, with all its flat-beds and frills, uses almost three times more carbon than economy seating, on average. This was the conclusion of a World Bank study, which also found some first class cabins emit up to nine times more CO2 than cattle class.

4. Plane, train or automobile?

Before you book a flight, find out if a car, bus or train can get you there instead. A good place to look is the 'fly or drive' calculator on Be Frugal, which can figure out the most efficient ways to get about. On average, bus and train journeys result in 55-75% less emissions than flying.

5. Offset your carbon

If a long-haul flight is your only option, you might want to donate to an airline's carbon offset scheme. Not all airlines operate them, but carriers including Delta, United, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Lufthansa offer customers the chance to contribute and support projects such as forest conservation and solar lighting.

6. Find eco-hotels

Take a look at glooby.com – a nifty search engine that sifts out the most sustainable flights and hotels at the best price. Bookdifferent.com is worth a nosey, having compiled more than a million hotels with impeccable eco-credentials. As well as finding the best prices for you, the site gives the carbon footprint in kilos per guest per night for each hotel. Bouteco.co, meanwhile, gives the lowdown on hotels combining style and sustainability.

7. Live like a local

It's something of a cliche these days, but living like a local overseas can cut your carbon output — from walking or cycling rather than hopping in the car, to eating local produce rather than imported foods.

Published in the January/February 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved