Did you know that in 2019, on average, there are more than 100 000 flights departing from airports around the world every day?

This years forecast will be another record-breaker year for air travel, with passengers racking up 8.1tn km in travel distance, up 5% from last year and more than 300% since 1990. The industry is also one of the fastest-growing polluters.

While many people enjoy the luxury of travel and factor in the associated financial costs, how much are you costing the planet in carbon emissions?

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), a forum made up of professionals, has highlighted the ‘real need for people to recognise their impact and how much water, waste and energy you should consume compared to the local population of your destination location’.

How much does the average person emit in a year?

The chart below by Statista highlights the enormous variations between the major world economies in CO₂ emissions measured at the individual level.

The average American, for example, is responsible for 14.95 metric tons, compared to 6.57 metric tons per person in China and only 1.57 metric tons in India. While South Africa is not included in the graph, it currently sits at about 6.97 metric tons per person, one of the worst in the world.

How much your holiday abroad is costing the planet

How much does my flight emit?

Flying from New York to London and back generates about 925 kg CO2. There are 54 countries where the average person produces less CO2 in a year.

Flying from Johannesburg to Mumbai and back generates about 1,304 kg CO2. There are 66 countries where the average person produces less CO2 in a year.

Flying from Cape Town to Lisbon and back generates about 1,563 kg CO2. There are 70 countries where the average person produces less CO2 in a year.

Flying from Cape Town to Sydney and back generates about 2,359 kg CO2. There are 97 countries where the average person produces less CO2 in a year.

Flying from New York to Hong Kong and back generates about 2,719 kg CO2. There are 104 countries where the average person produces less CO2 in a year.

How to offset your carbon footprint

Flights are the main source of carbon emissions in your holiday footprint. Skip printing your ticket, and use an e-ticket when checking in. Avoid unnecessary layovers and book direct – which might be a bit more expensive, but are more pleasurable!

If you like to travel, rather extend the length of your trips if possible and take fewer holidays a year.

When travelling, make sure you pack light. Often people will pack more than is necessary, adding to the overall fuel usage of the plane.

If you can, rather drive, use public transport or walk to your location. If you have to fly, offset your carbon emissions by donating to a project in your region that (for example) plant trees, donating to solar or wind farms, protect forests or supply sustainable cooking appliances in developing countries.

Refuse, reuse, recycle

Say no to straws – straws are one of the most avoidable single use plastics, simply ask to not have a straw with your drink. This is a very easy way to immediately reduce your plastic waste with minimal effort. If you enjoy using a straw, consider purchasing a stainless steel or bamboo reusable straw.

Refuse plastic souvenir bags – it’s fun purchasing items on holiday, but they are usually heavily wrapped in plastic. Instead, use your own backpacks/handbags to carry those precious holiday souvenirs.

Reuse plastic water bottles – in some countries the tap water is not drinkable so you can’t avoid buying plastic bottled water. Try and buy bigger bottles, then decant them. Ask your accommodation to re-fill your water bottles instead of buying new ones. Always try and recycle your plastic water bottles before you leave.

Reuse plastic toiletries – when packing, small travel toiletries comes in handy. Use small bottles for shampoo and shower gel. Make sure to keep reusing them for all of your trips.

Reuse your tent – if you are attending a music festival, make sure you don’t leave your tent behind. The manufacture of typical 3.5kg tent emits the equivalent of as much as 25kg of carbon dioxide, and contains the equivalent of around 8,750 straws. Alternatively, donate it to someone in need.

Eco-friendly Sun Cream – Sun creams can harm the environment as they often contain Oxybenzone which has been found to contribute to coral bleaching which kill corals and is toxic to other marine life. Fortunately, there are eco-friendly alternatives available to help you protect your skin that don’t impact the environment.