In 2020, the world changed, and travel stopped. But as travellers, we’re still keeping our sights on the future for when the world re-opens. And when you’re ready to start travelling again, there’s a new way to do it – one that’s gentler on the places we’ve been missing.
When you search for flights, you can sort the results by how much CO₂ is emitted for each of them, meaning you have the choice to make a more sustainable travel decision. Try the new Least CO₂ sorter and see how easy it is.
We recently conducted a survey, which revealed that for most of us, sustainability is top of mind in our daily lives. But as travellers, most of us simply don’t have enough information to make sustainable decisions.
Calculating CO₂ is not for the faint of heart. There are so many factors that it’s next to impossible for a traveller to figure it out. Plus, flying creates non-CO₂ pollutants like nitrogen oxides, ozone, soot particles, condensation trails and ice clouds. That’s why we teamed up with German non-profit atmosfair, one of the world’s leading climate consulting organisations, to develop the Least CO₂ sorter.
An overall rating of how well an airline is performing on multiple CO₂-reducing factors.
Fully booked planes have more passengers, which means less CO₂ per passenger.
More passengers can fly in economy class seats because they take up less space, which means less CO₂ per passenger.
Modern aircraft are up to 30% more fuel-efficient than older models.
Take-off and landing use the most jet fuel on every flight. Flying direct means you only do this once.
With the Least CO₂ sorter, you can immediately see how flights stack up environmentally. It shows the average amount of CO₂ and non-CO₂ emissions for all flight routes in your search result, plus how much each individual flight emits and how those compare to the average.
In routes where trains and buses are available, these options will also appear in your search results – so you can compare all your options and find the best way to get there on less CO₂.
The prices and percentages shown are for illustrative purposes only.
Choosing the right flight is just the start. As travellers, we can make choices to reduce our travel impact throughout the entire journey – from planning to transport to activities on location. Get some help with these sustainable travel tips.
Economy seats are the smallest and lightest seat option, so more of them can fit on a plane – meaning less CO₂ emissions.
Reduce plastic and save money to boot – bring your own meal in a reusable container.
Visit outdoor markets, drink locally-made beer and wine, avoid chain restaurants and buy souvenirs made in the area.
It takes energy to make every gram of weight airborne, so ask yourself if what you’re packing is really necessary.
And fill it up after you’ve passed security to stay hydrated on the plane. Practical when exploring your destination too!
Instead of jet-skiing, paragliding or four-wheeling, try alpine-skiing, snorkeling and bicycling.
Choose tours owned and operated by locals, who also have an interest in the well-being of their communities.
Before heading to the airport, unplug your electronics (especially TVs and computers) and turn down the heating and refrigerator.
No one likes hanging out on a littered beach. Clean up – especially non-biodegradable rubbish – so you can relax with a good conscience.
Avoid all-you-can-eat food buffets and ask for your leftovers “to go” – perfect for a midnight snack.
Eco-tourism is on the rise. Do you want to travel to destinations doing their bit for sustainability? Then these are the happening places to indulge your eco-tendencies in 2020.
Frequently asked questions:
In 2017, global flight traffic emitted more than 859 million tonnes of CO₂, which accounted for approx. 2% of global man-made CO₂ emissions. But flying also emits non-carbon emissions like ozone, soot particles and nitrogen oxide that, when emitted at altitudes over 9 km, account for 4% to 5% of global warming.
How much CO₂ a single plane emits depends on factors like aircraft type, distance travelled and passenger load. You can see how much your flight will emit by using our Least CO₂ sorter in your search.
Flight compensation is a way to “make up for” the CO2 emissions that were used to fly a passenger to their final destination by allowing the passenger to contribute to projects that will either remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere (e.g. planting trees) or reduce future CO2 emissions (e.g. solar farms or research into sustainable aviation fuel).
Many organisations and companies – including some airline companies – have CO2 calculators that let you calculate how much CO2 your flight has emitted and then offset your portion of those emissions. The most important thing to remember is that if you choose to offset your flight, make sure your money is helping fund a validated project. Look for projects that have e.g. the CDM Gold Standard and VCS certification labels, which means their environmental effects are closely monitored.
You can read more about flight compensation in this article.
Taking most of the common forms of transportation into account – plane, train, car, cycling and walking – it’s no surprise that biking and walking are the least CO2-intensive ways to get around. Some say that cycling actually emits less than walking because we require less food-fueled energy to go the same distance by bike than by foot, which translates into fewer CO2 emissions that went into growing, packaging and transporting the food. (If you want to dig even deeper, you can also factor in CO2 emitted from our bodies during the walk/bike ride, which would be fewer on the bike ride because, even though we may be breathing harder, we would still be breathing less overall in that distance than walking.)
Of course, it’s hard for most people to bike or walk longer distances. Between planes, trains and cars, trains emit the least CO2 by far. According to one study, a trip from London to Edinburgh emits 128 kg CO₂eq by plane, 100 kg CO₂eq by car and only 21 kg CO₂eq by train.
Say you do a flight search on KAYAK and see two good possibilities: one that emits 2,260 kg of CO₂ and one that emits 1,885 kg CO₂ (19% less). So how does this 375 kg of difference in CO₂ compare to the rest of your carbon footprint? According to this calculator, a 375 kg (19%) CO₂ reduction is the equivalent of driving a passenger car 1,500 km.
The well-being of this planet involves us all. That’s why, just as KAYAK creates transparency on flight prices, we’re now also giving you transparency on the environmental impact of flights.
But we know there is no one solution. We will continue to develop other eco-travel products to help protect our planet for future generations.
Start your travel planning here
Search Flights, Hotels & Car Hire