A study spanning 160 countries found that the tourism industry’s carbon emissions have grown leaps and bounds over previous estimates, and now comprise 8% of global emissions. So, what can travel companies do about it? At every step of the traveller’s journey, companies are finding new solutions to make their services and products more environmentally friendly.
The benefits are clear: while converting to more eco-friendly technology and practices may seem costly in the short term, these solutions turn out to be more cost-effective and efficient in the long run. It also sets companies apart from the competition, adds to the value of their service, and can attract new green-conscious customers.
Carbon offsetting is one of the most accessible ways for the travel industry to account for its emissions. Third-party companies such as Carbon Footprint calculate emissions and then advise how to invest in clean, renewable energy projects around the world.
Some airlines offset their carbon emissions and many companies offset their travel-based emissions. On the ground, Blacklane offsets not only emissions from all rides performed worldwide, but also emissions from daily operations. These include heating, electricity, water consumption, flights, and hotel stays around the world.
When it comes to everyday operations, offices can adapt processes and materials. Reducing paper usage and recycling paper is one of the most common. United Airlines has received praise for its recycling program, alongside its other green efforts.
A company that truly embodies the eco-friendly attitude is Patagonia. Its environmentally conscious attitude is inherent in its brand promise, inside and out. More and more travel companies are adopting a similar ethos to tap into the growing eco-luxury market.
From little shifts like Alaskan Airlines and American Airlines switching from plastic straws to ones made of actual straw, to Irish budget airline Ryanair pledging to get rid of all single-use plastics on their flights within the next five years, many travel giants are making a big impact by switching some of the smallest elements of their service to different materials.
And it’s not just airlines. The Royal Caribbean cruise line has announced it too has plans to crack down on single-use plastics. Hilton hotels will be free of plastic straws by the end of the year. Marriott is switching to more eco-friendly bath products.
Earlier this year, Qantas conducted cross-Pacific flights with a 10 percent biofuel blend. What seems like an incremental change could actually have an enormous effect, with air travel emissions projected to grow four times in the next 30 years.
On the ground, this means electric vehicles, and not just in the private sector. Blacklane’s chauffeur service now offers a service class of emission-free electric vehicles, the Green Class, in 26 cities so far.
The other option is to create something entirely new with the goal of sustainability. Eco-tourism has taken off, with entire resorts injecting sustainability into every aspect of the experience.
A notable example is Soneva Kiri Resort in Thailand. The resort’s mantra is about living the SLOW LIFE (which stands for Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences) and was awarded The Butterfly Mark by Positive Luxury for its sustainable practices extended from the construction to the day-to-day service.
Or take Greenrail, a startup creating new railroad ties out of recycled materials that can have a piezoelectric system integrated into them to generate electricity with every train that passes over them.
Whatever the method, the motive is clear. Today’s travellers are expecting the companies and products that they align themselves with to be ethical and environmentally responsible, and the long-term economic benefit to the businesses themselves can’t be ignored.
CEO and co-founder, Blacklane
The views expressed are from the author, and don't necessarily reflect those of the Solar Impulse Foundation.
Guest posts are articles written by our Members, Partners, key industry leaders or experts about clean technology trends and innovations that are interesting for the Solar Impulse Foundation ecosystem.