Step 1: Get your co-workers on board!
Talk to your colleagues and fellow students about the disastrous impact of air travel.
Campaign Toolkit to start a Bottom-Up Initiative for Grounded Travel
Step 2: Analyse your emissions!
Carbon Calculators are tools to quantify the climate impact of an activity like travel. Our partner Zeroing Flying collected some useful calculators that can help organisations to analyse their travel emissions.
Typically, the emissions of greenhouse gas are calculated by combining user input e.g. for his/her travel(s) and mode choice(s), with default data e.g. on the average fuel efficiency and the carbon intensity of the fuels. Good calculators structure the process of data gathering; they cover all relevant aspects, are transparent in their assumptions and allow their modification by the user; they have a scientific foundation, are well documented and up-to-date.
The following presents three online carbon calculators for:
- air travel in detail on an individual level
- air travel compared to other surface transport modes
- mobility as part of total household consumption
All calculators presented here acknowledge the most important parameters for the resulting emissions of air travel. They distinguish between cabin class (from economy to first) and account for non-CO2 effects of air travel by an uplift factor of 1.9. This factor can be considered a lower limit: see the Stay Grounded paper on the total impact of aviation on climate, according to which a flight’s CO2 impact should actually be tripled in footprint calculators.
In “Additional information on calculators” you find other carbon calculators and a more detailed comparision of the calculators presented below.
Calculating individual flights: atmosfair
Atmosfair calculates the CO2-eq emissions from one or several flights. The user needs to specify departure and arrival airports to obtain a result. Further flight details can be entered: scheduled or chartered flight, cabin class (economy, premium, business, first), possible stopovers and aircraft type. Non-CO2 emissions are factored in as 1.9 times the CO2 emitted depending on flight distance and typical flight profiles.
The emissions of the flight are given for an average and for the most efficient airline on the destination. The flight emissions are furthermore compared to average annual emissions from a citizen in a developing country, to emissions from average annual car driving and to a climate compatible emission budget for one person.
The calculator offers an emission offsetting, which is however not recommended by Stay Grounded.
Airlines often calculate flight emissions using the ICAO calculator. However, this has very low results as it omits non-CO2 effects and distributes emissions on a full economy seating (see more info in “Additional information on calculators”). We do not recommend using the ICAO calculator.
Comparing emissions from flights with other transport modes: ecopassenger
Ecopassenger compares “the energy consumption, the CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts for planes, cars and trains in passenger transport”. The calculator has been developed by a scientific institute for the International Union of Railways; its results are also embedded in online timetable and ticketing systems of several European railways.
The user specifies start and destination. Entering the date and time of travel determines the exact railway connection. For air travel, journeys to and from the airports are included, the load factor can be varied and non-CO2 effects are accounted for by a factor of 1.9. Details on the fuel economy, emission standard and occupancy of cars and the load and electricity mix of railways can also be adjusted. This covers the most important factors for the emission calculation.
Household carbon footprint calculators: My carbon balance
My carbon balance is a household footprint calculator. It helps placing emissions from air travel in the context of emissions from all activities over the course of a year. The calculator covers activities most important for the carbon footprint, like car travel, air travel, transport, electricity consumption, heating and cooling demands, diet, and material consumption.
It offers two calculation levels. The top level requires only little user input. Emissions are calculated using default data from Germany. The second level allows for a more detailed calculation of the annual carbon balance by entering data specific to the own consumption. For air travel, the details are very similar to the atmosfair calculator. All results are compared to the average carbon footprint by consumption category for Germany.
Very interestingly, My Carbon Balance includes a forward looking perspective: the user can specify intended changes to his/her consumption pattern, e.g. less air travel, a switch to an electric car or savings on heating and electricity consumption, etc. over the short-, medium- and long-term. The remaining emissions are then calculated and compared to climate compatible emissions. The users can thus analyse the effectiveness of their own “mitigation pledge”.
Carbon Footprint is a similar household calculator based on UK default data.
Step 3: Ground your travel policy!
Nine Concrete Steps towards a Climate Friendly Travel Policy
Resources to ground your organisation
The Travel Better Package by “Sustainability Exchange”, delivered by the Alliance for Sustainability in Education (EAUC), aims to support the reduction of air travel in the education sector. It contains:
- A Questions & Answer tool addressing concerns individuals may have about reducing air travel
- The Travel Better Pledge Template for individuals, departments or institutions
- The Air Travel Justification Tool, which supports individuals in justifying/reflecting on attending events only accessible through flying
Prepare for landing: Practical tips on tracking, reporting and reducing business air travel emissions by the Stockholm Environment Institute
There are already hundreds of articles, studies and opinion pieces on the possibilities, obstacles and consequences of flying less for business trips – especially in academia. The experiences of universities provide many important lessons for other types of organisations, too. We highly recommend to have a look at the following resource collections, from which also this website could benefit (thank you very much!):
Step 4: Go virtual!
Virtual meetings and conferences can be one important means to reduce air travel in organisations. In this section, we collect information that may help you to promote online communication in your organisation.
Take a look at our webinar and read our guide to online meetings:
Guide and Webinar on Online Meetings and Conferences
Check out our resource collection on organising virtual meetings and conferences:
Resources on online conferences
- UC Santa Barbara/ Environmental Humanities: Nearly Carbon-Neutral (NCN) Conference Model
- Online Conferences of Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA), section of the American Anthropological Association: Reflections on Conference 2018 (“Displacements”) and How to Guide (video series) for presenters at the 2020 conference (“Distribute”)
- University of Alberta’s Virtual Conferencing TOOLKIT
- Association of Computing Machinery SIGPLAN’s conference carbon calculator allows organizers to upload a spreadsheet of conference attendee data to calculate total air travel footprint.
- “Seven steps to make travel to scientific conferences more sustainable” (Olivier Hamant, Timothy Saunders and Virgile Viasnoff, 2019, Nature)
- Professor Charlotte Rae’s “Guide for academic societies that are looking to generate an Environment Policy”
- Semi-virtual ESCOM conference in music and psychology (2018) taking place in four different hubs around the world, video documentary about the conference and talk of Richard Parncutt about the format.
- The Climate-Friendly Global Academic Conference with a Human Touch: Webinar with several online conference organisers from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
- Article on the online conference of the European Biological Rhythms Society (EBRS) in Munich
- Climate Action Taskforce of the Council of the American Association of Geographers (AAG)
- Reflections on the Photonics Online Meetup (ETH Zürich)
- Reflections on the Signs of Change National Networked e-Conference (New Zealand)
- Roundtable and video presentations on “Reimagining the Annual Meeting for an Era of Radical Climate Change” of the Canadian Anthropology Society and American Anthropological Association
- Report on the CET Beyond Oil Conference 2017 & 2019