Flying and Driving: Can you Travel more Sustainably?

11 minute read

Updated on Thu Jan 28 2021

Why focus on transport?

Transport is responsible for 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we’re looking to cut our personal emissions, this is a good place to start.

Which mode of transport creates the most emissions?

Emissions vary depending on what you use to travel

Flying creates 2.4% of global CO₂ emissions! But this is only part of the story - over half of its climate impact comes from non-CO₂ emissions.

For example, planes release trails of water vapour which produce clouds that trap energy from the sun, creating a warming effect three times that of CO₂!

Impacts of flying

How can you reduce your environmental impact from flying?

For some journeys, there are alternatives to flying, such as taking a train or ferry.

When this isn’t possible, flying economy is the next best option. Flying in business class produces 2 to 3 times as much CO₂ as flying economy, while flying first class produces 2 to 3 times as much CO₂ as flying business class! This is because premium seats take up more space.

Earthly sitting on a cramped airplane

Emissions from cars

In the EU, road transport (which includes cars, lorries, and buses) accounts for 72% of all emissions from transport!

How can you reduce your emissions from driving?

That said, the best alternative is to take public transport, walk, or take a bicycle.

Riding together can lower your impact!

Should you buy an electric car?

Electric cars get their energy from electricity in a battery, rather than fuel in a tank.

True or false: “Electric cars do not produce any carbon emissions”

Unfortunately, electricity is still generated by burning fossil fuels in most places.

So, does switching from petrol to electric cars actually reduce emissions?

When compared to conventional petrol vehicles, electric cars still produce fewer emissions in their lifetime.

Electric vehicles have a lower impact than conventional vehicles

Even in the US, where 84.3% of energy is produced by fossil fuels, electric vehicles emit half as much as petrol vehicles.

That said, electric cars still cause the same problems associated with all cars: traffic and road accidents.

Plus, cars release particles called PM₂.₅, which cause air pollution in cities. Most of these don’t come from the exhaust, but from friction in the breaks and the tyres, so occur on any type of car.

Where do emissions from electric cars come from?


We can all play a role in reducing our emissions by limiting how much we travel as well as choosing transportation options with a lower carbon footprint.

You'll reduce your impact by taking public transport!

Now you might be thinking “it’s great that I can cut my own carbon footprint, but it won’t change anything because I’m only one person”. This is an important concern, and we’ll look at it next!

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