Is Flying Sustainable
The aviation industry is trying to green its image and improve its reputation for being one the most polluting industries on the planet, needless to say it will be quite a difficult task. But can air travel ever be something that could be considered ‘sustainable’ on the same level as food or coffee beans can be considered sustainable?
In every product that claims to be sustainable there is likely to be an element in its production, harvest, or delivery that is not sustainable. In the case of potatoes that reach you in a recyclable brown paper box, it’s the machine that pulls the potatoes out of the ground, the oil that that machine runs on and the machine that delivers the potatoes to the store. Then there’s the machine that recycles the paper every time. No matter how sustainable a product seems, it’s still likely that its carbon emissions are closer to that of a couple of flights from Philadelphia to Nassau.
For air travel, it’s clear the elements of the service that are not sustainable at current levels: almost everything the plane is made of is pulled out of the ground, and those resources will run out before we stop needing them. Then there’s oil. And it’s not difficult to see that this is not a sustainable product. It’s not a renewable energy, at least more oil won’t be ready in time to fuel a few flights from Portland to Puerto Vallarta.
So rather than dismiss flying as completely unsustainable, we have to accept that people want to fly and they will continue to fly no matter how unethical or morally unsound it becomes. So let’s focus on how we can make flights from Washington to Delhi more sustainable rather than demanding people stop flying completely without thinking of a way to fix this.
Stacey sylvester is an author that writes about travel and leisure