Eco-Friendly Flying: How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint In The Skies

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BrighterPlanet.com has released their list of the most and least efficient airlines around the world. Which begs the question, how do ordinary citizens make their flights greener?

BrighterPlanet.com has released their list of the most and least efficient airlines around the world. Which begs the question, how do ordinary citizens make their flights greener?

There are a handful of tips for people who want to make flying more energy efficient. How you choose your aircraft, your flight's seating arrangements and even flight time all have implications on a flight's efficiency.

The five main keys to take into account are an aircraft's passenger load factor, seat density, freight share, distance and fuel economy are all "critical factors for accurate flight carbon measurement and measurement," Brighter Planet reports. Check out a list of the greenest airlines here.

Here's the good news: Air travel efficiency has increased 20% since 2000, saving U.S. airlines a whopping $33 billion on fuel and prevented 670 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.

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Eco-Friendly Flying: How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint In The Skies

On average, Brighter Planet reports, larger planes consume less fuel per capacity pound-mile than smaller aircraft.


Of the world's 20 largest airlines, Cathay Pacific and United Airlines provide passengers with the most efficient planes, while shorter haul airlines American Eagle and ExpressJet are less efficient.


In 2010, passengers flew on planes that were 12% more efficient than those flown on in 2000.

Look for flights with larger economy class sections.

In general, flights with more economy seats are more efficient than those with larger business or first class seats. That's because the more passengers an aircraft can accommodate, the less fuel is used per passenger.


Passengers on the more-jammed airlines of EasyJet and RyanAir (with their large economy class sections, i.e. more efficient cabin configurations) were found to be more efficient than those on British Airways and Lufthansa, both of which have larger business and first class sections.

It makes sense: The more passengers a plane can carry to any given destination, the smaller the carbon footprint per passenger.


The average passenger travels on flights that are 80% full, while the average flight is 74% full.


Again, RyanAir and EasyJet have the highest load factors (i.e. fewest empty seats), while Southwest and Cathay Pacific have the lowest load factors.


The time of year passengers fly also weighs on the efficiency factor. Summertime flights, with more people traveling for vacation, are the most efficient. For instance, a passenger's trip is 15-20% more efficient in July than in January.

78% of commercial flights carry extra cargo beyond passengers and their luggage.


Yet between 2000 and 2010, the average freight carried decreased by nearly half. This correlates with an increased passenger load factor--the flights were fuller with more passengers so there was less room for cargo.


The most efficient airlines in this category? Surprise: Cathay Pacific, followed by British Airways and KLM. The least efficient: SkyWest, Ryanair and EasyJet.

The single most important determinant of a passenger's footprint is the distance traveled.


A plane's take off and ascent "guzzle far more fuel" than that used during cruising altitude. As a result, shorter haul flights are less efficient (flights with stop overs has a double effect on emissions).


The most efficient airlines in this category? Long haul carriers Cathay Pacific, Air France and British Airways. The least include regional carriers American Eagle, SkyWest and ExpressJet.


The good news? Average flight lengths have increased since 2003, due perhaps, Brighter Planet notes, to airlines cutting down on shorter-haul flights to keep "pace with rising fuel costs."

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