Business travel has bounced back after the pandemic and, once again, professionals are attending out-of-town conferences, meetings, and business opportunities.
And while there are many business and professional benefits of business travel, the practice is not very good for our environment.
Traveling creates a massive amount of carbon emissions and energy expenditure which contribute to climate change.
The good thing is that there are many ways to prioritize environmental stewardship in your life and work—here are 12 sustainable business travel tips to incorporate into your travel plans in 2023.
1. Travel Less
The reality is that the best thing you can do to travel more sustainably is to simply travel less. Fewer flights, rental cars, trains, and hotel stays will all reduce your energy usage and carbon footprint.
But this doesn’t mean to stop traveling altogether. Instead, try one of these options:
- Connect multiple stops: Try to schedule business trips in sequence so you visit multiple destinations before returning home. This will cut back on the total number of trips you need to take in a year.
- Go virtual: The pandemic radically shifted how we work and meet together, with many professionals embracing Zoom and teleconferences. Now that we can travel again, many are eager to do so. Try to evaluate the pros and cons of each option and continue using virtual methods when in-person travel is not necessary.
- Alternate transportation methods: Trains, buses, and boats are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than driving and flying. Whenever possible, opt for these options.
2. Pick a “Green” Airline
The airline industry is not, of course, inherently green—all airplanes emit carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions.
But, some airlines have a stronger commitment to sustainability and are a better choice when given the option.
Leafscore compiled a list of top sustainable airlines in 2023, which includes:
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines: This airline has a strong overall commitment to sustainability. Their comprehensive climate action plan seeks to reduce carbon emissions, use sustainable fuel options, and other best practices.
- Alaska Airlines: As one of the most fuel-efficient airlines, Alaska has made a number of commitments to sustainability including partnering with the Port of Seattle’s Greener Skies research program.
- Cathay Pacific: With a stated goal to become the “world’s best airline,” Cathay Pacific is committed to sustainability by adding new fuel-efficient planes to its fleet and operating on biofuel, which saves 80% on traditional fuel use.
3. Choose Economy Class
Research tells us that a first-class ticket for a long-haul flight emits four times as much carbon dioxide as an economy seat. This is because the seat weighs more and takes up more space in the cabin.
Although the plane is already in flight no matter which seat you choose, selecting economy class reduces your personal contributions to emissions while lessening overall demand for business or first-class seats.
4. Fly Direct or Minimize Stops
Not only is flying direct a more pleasant experience, but it’s better for the environment, too.
Researchers found that nonstop routes produce fewer carbon emissions, to the tune of 100 carbon dioxide kg per person. This is equivalent to operating a refrigerator for an entire year!
If you aren’t able to fly directly to your destination, make sure to minimize stops and choose the most direct route. This may cost slightly more but can make a massive environmental impact.
5. Fly During the Day
Did you know that the time of day you fly can make a big impact on the environment?
Flights produce cirrus clouds and contrails (i.e., the line-shaped clouds behind an airplane) and, at nighttime, they are more likely to trap in heat and cause additional warming. During the day, however, they reflect the sun back into space, which has a cooling effect.
For this reason, daytime flights have less impact on the climate and can be prioritized whenever possible.
6. Pack Light
The heavier the plane, the more fuel to operate. If you can pack light and bring only a carry-on bag, you are reducing the overall weight of the plane to increase fuel efficiency overall.
Bonus—you won’t have to wait in line to pick your bag up after your flight!
7. Choose Hotels and Workspaces that Prioritize Sustainability
Eco-friendly business travel is about more than just flying. Where you choose to stay and work also impacts the environment.
For that reason, look for hotels or accommodations that prioritize sustainability. Some things to look out for include:
- Automatic light and air conditioner shut-offs
- Green roof technology
- Water conservation programs
- LEED certification
You can also minimize your impact, opt for a room that’s just the size you need—excessively large hotel rooms use more energy and aren’t necessary.
Another eco-conscious action is to reuse your towel and sheets by leaving a note or using the “do not disturb” sign.
If you’re working while on the road, also think about using a workspace that prioritizes sustainability.
Coworking spaces are shared workplaces, which means there is less energy expenditure per person. While working in one, you’re also opting for reusable dishes and cutlery rather than disposable ones from a coffee shop or take-out restaurant.
8. Use Public Transit
When you’re traveling for business, consider taking public transit instead of renting a car or taking a taxi/rideshare. Many cities have very efficient and easy-to-navigate public transportation options which are often quicker than sitting in traffic in a car.
Shared transportation is one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and, as a bonus, it’s the cheaper option, too.
9. Go Digital
Everything can be done online in 2023. From your boarding pass to hotel booking confirmation to insurance policies—there’s simply no need to print it out at home.
Spend some time organizing your documents digitally before leaving on your business trip to ensure you have everything you need. This simple step ensures that you or customer service representatives do not need to print a hard copy at any time. Less paper equals a big win for the environment.
10. Eat at Locally-Sourced Restaurants
You’re likely eating out more when you’re on the road for business, so this is a good opportunity to be more eco-friendly.
One way to do so is by prioritizing restaurants with locally-sourced foods. This means less energy was used to transport the products to the location. Local ingredients are not only more environmentally friendly, but they’re often more delicious and nutritious, too.
Most restaurants that prioritize this in their menus will advertise it, but you could also Google search options like “farm-to-table,” “locally sourced,” or “plant based.”
11. Evaluate Your Finances
Sometimes it’s simply not possible to travel in a “green” way. So if you’re looking to take things a step further, consider where your money goes and how it can support sustainability.
Two ways to do this include:
- Carbon offsets: While it doesn’t eliminate the carbon expenditure while traveling, carbon credits are a way to offset the impact. By purchasing them, your money goes towards projects like reforestation or renewable energy. There are a number of vendors you can purchase from such as CarbonZero, TerraPass, ClimateCare, or Native Energy.
- ESG investing: ESG, or Environmental, Social, and Governance, refers to investments that focus on these areas. Investing in ESG companies and industries means your dollars are going to support the environment and other causes that matter to you.
12. Create a Green Travel Policy
The last thing you can do is enshrine some of these tips in a corporate green travel policy. This ensures that any team member in your company knows the expectations of how to travel in an eco-friendly way.
You may include suggestions for airlines, hotels, and using public transportation. This may be reflected in approved business expenses or per diem allotments.
Carbon emissions fell by 7% over the pandemic as travel screeched to a halt. And while we aren’t necessarily looking to go back to that place, it shows us that we can make a significant positive impact on the environment through travel habits.
So, as you’re planning business travel for 2023, consider these tips to make it a bit more eco-friendly every time you go.
And if you’re looking for a professional and fully-appointed shared workspace to use while traveling, contact us to visit your local Launch Workplaces today.