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TerraPass Sponsored Series

Carbon Offsetting

8 Strategies for Cutting Business Travel Emissions


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Whether traveling by train, plane, or automobile, these modes of transportation all produce carbon emissions. In fact, the transportation sector accounts for a whopping 28 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Trimming emissions related to business travel is a big step towards realizing sustainability goals and possibly improving the bottom line. Here are eight strategies for reducing the impact of business travel.

Hold virtual meetings and training sessions

The most dramatic way to reduce business travel emissions is to not travel at all. Virtual meetings and trainings reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save time. Instead of sending out employees, use technology to reduce the need to travel. Some practices that make this more effective are continuing to focus on relationship-building, using a video component, and ensuring that it is easy for all parties to access the virtual meeting platform.

Choose a greener fleet

The fleet is a visible and tangible way to demonstrate a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Whenever possible, select the vehicle with the best fuel economy to get the job done.  This will reduce fuel expenses and is a brand reflection. In some cases, compressed natural gas is a good choice and some say it can result in a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Carefully select the mode of transportation

Although there are some variables, including distance and the number of people in your party, certain modes of transportation generally have lower associated greenhouse gas emissions. For example, travel by motor couch and train are almost always carbon bargain. Because they bring passengers to the city center unlike air travel, it might be possible to avoid renting a car upon arrival.

Choose nonstop flights

Lots of greenhouse gas emissions are related to takeoff, landing, and ground operations, not to mention the decrease in productivity of the traveler from this additional idle time. To reduce your carbon footprint, select nonstop flights. If this isn't an option or its prohibitively expensive, try to fly as directly as possible, avoiding out-of-the-way layovers.

Avoid flying first class

I know the seats are wider and the menu options are great, but unfortunately flying first class as this is one of the most polluting ways to travel. Downgrade your tickets, especially on longer flights.

Driving during off-peak times

The fuel rates of vehicles can double when the roads are congested because fuel economy rapidly declines. Traffic jams are also bad for your employees' health: The driver inhales more auto fumes, and driving during rush hour is associated with high blood pressure and stress levels. For smoother sailing and greater employee productivity, travel when the roads are clear, which in some cases might involve schedule shifting. If you need to travel extensively during rush hour, it might be worth adding a hybrid or electric vehicle (with regenerative breaks) to your fleet.

Use traffic updates

If you must travel during peak times or in highly populated areas, use a GPS with traffic updates or an app such as Beat The Traffic to steer clear of collisions and bottlenecks. As a bonus, this also reduces vehicle wear and tear and fuel expenses.

Offset unavoidable business travel

Once you have reduced the emissions from travel, you can purchase carbon offsets for the remaining travel. Unfortunately, not all offsets are created equal, so do a bit of homework to select a high quality program, such as Terrapass or Native Energy.

Do you have any tips about conducting virtual meetings or greening your fleet? Please share your experiences with us.

Image Credit: Flickr/Mararie (upper photo) and William Murphy (lower photo)

Sarah Lozanova is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Green Building & Design, Triple Pundit, Urban Farm, and Solar Today. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Mid-coast Maine with her husband and two children.

Sarah Lozanova headshotSarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.

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