According to The Carbon Neutral Individual, 33% of the United States carbon emissions are caused by four household behaviors:
- Electricity consumption
- Home heating
- Automobile use
- Jet travel
A few years ago, my family and I embarked on a concerted effort to change these behaviors and reduce our household emissions. We were able to make significant reductions in the first three without painful lifestyle changes. In fact, many of the corresponding lifestyle changes were welcome.
But jet travel proved challenging. There are many choices available in reducing automobile use (use a bicycle) or electricity (switch to LED bulbs) or home heating (put a damper in that flue). However, when it comes to jet travel, we have few choices – I did suggest that we sail rather than fly to London for our annual trip to visit family, but my wife was not keen on the idea.
The bottom line is that flying is really carbon intensive and there’s not much today that we can do about it except to not fly. For those of us for whom travel is a passion or who have families overseas, this presents quite a dilemma.
Fortunately – there are some solutions in the works. Here are three that I’ve come across:
- Aviation biofuels – in Seattle, we’re proud to be home to Alaska Airlines which launched the first commercial, biofuel powered, regularly scheduled flight service in the US. Paul Andersson (who is using Scope 5 so creatively at the City of Bellevue) worked with local Climate Solutions’ Sustainable Aviation Fuels effort to develop a full Northwest aviation biofuels supply chain. Further afield – in March of this year, KLM started using aviation biofuel for their weekly Amsterdam/New York flight.
- Solar powered aircraft – in one example, a plane built by Solar Impulse and powered entirely by solar cells on its wings completed a coast to coast (US) trip in July. These guys recently partnered with Google and plan to fly around the world in 2015.
- Airships – a little more whimsical, but promising nonetheless – Aeros is one of a number of companies developing airships. Reminiscent of the old Zeppelin but without the danger of hydrogen, these promise to carry passengers around the world in luxurious, if slower ‘air cruises’.
These all give me reason to hope that we will one day be able to enjoy carbon free intercontinental air-travel. The airship option in particular intrigues me because similar to the sailing option, it challenges the notion that ‘getting there quickly’ is paramount. But that’s a whole ‘nother thing…