Impactful Travel’s Top Tips to Fly More Sustainably to our Destinations

Flying is a significant part of modern travel, but it’s also one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions. At Impactful Travel, we believe that avoiding air travel is ideal, but we also understand you can’t quite drive your Prius down to Ecuador. Fortunately, there are ways to fly more sustainably if it’s necessary for your journey. Inspired by an insightful article from our friends at Better Places (in Dutch), we’ve compiled tips on how you can reduce your environmental impact when traveling to destinations like Peru, Ecuador (including the Galapagos), and Costa Rica.

Is Sustainable Flying Possible?

The honest answer is that truly sustainable flying doesn’t exist yet. Airplanes emit a substantial amount of greenhouse gasses, and their operation causes noise and air pollution around airports. For long-distance travel, such as trips to South America, flights can account for up to 95% of the total CO2 emissions of your trip. While technological advancements like electric planes and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) are promising, these solutions are not yet widely available or effective enough to significantly reduce emissions.

Fly more sustainably to Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica with Impactful Travel, and enjoy the beautiful landscapes passing by underneath you even more than before.
Fly more sustainably with Impactful Travel, and enjoy the beautiful landscapes passing by underneath you even more than before.

Fly more Sustainably by Making Smarter Flight Choices

If flying is unavoidable, making informed choices about your flight can help minimize its environmental impact:

Short and Medium Distances

For shorter distances, direct flights generally help to fly more sustainably because takeoffs and landings consume the most fuel. Flying directly reduces the total distance traveled and the number of high-fuel phases in your journey. This also counts for domestic flights, which at Impactful Travel we try to minimize as much as possible, as part of our sustainability philosophy.

Long Distances

For longer distances, such as flying from North America or Europe to South America, the situation is different. Planes on long-haul flights must carry more fuel, which increases weight and emissions. In these cases, splitting your journey with a layover can sometimes be more efficient. However, ensure that your layover airport is on a logical route to avoid unnecessary detours.

Choosing the Right Airline and Aircraft

Newer aircraft models are more fuel-efficient and produce fewer emissions. Additionally, the seating class you choose matters—business class seats take up more space and therefore have a higher carbon footprint per passenger compared to economy class (three times!). Google Flights is an excellent tool to help you identify the least polluting flights by filtering based on aircraft type, fuel consumption, and seating configurations.

Moreover, average occupancy rates play a crucial role. High occupancy rates generally mean lower emissions per passenger. For instance, routes from places with large Latino populations, such as Spain or Miami, typically have many flights with good occupancy rates to Latin American countries, which we ourselves use thankfully to fly more sustainably.

The Limitations of Carbon Offsetting

While carbon offsetting programs are often marketed as a way to neutralize your flight’s emissions, they do not solve the core problem of carbon emissions from flying. Planting trees or investing in renewable energy projects doesn’t negate the immediate impact of greenhouse gasses released during your flight. Instead of relying on offsets, focus on reducing your overall flights and making smarter travel choices to fly more sustainably.

A lovely homestay at a young family’s place in Costa Rica. Beyond the flight, your impact can be so positive if you travel the right way! Request your custom trip to Costa Rica with Impactful Travel here!

Support Sustainable Tourism

After impacting the environment with your long-haul flight, ensure to make sustainable choices once at your destination. Support the local economy by participating in community-based tours, staying at small-scale and locally-owned accommodations, and choosing experiences that aid conservation efforts. These actions not only reduce your travel footprint but also enrich your experience by connecting you with local cultures. Impactful Travel makes this easy for you: either book a custom trip with us or choose sustainable tours directly from our platform.

Embrace Slow Travel

Slow travel encourages spending more time in fewer destinations, reducing the number of flights needed and allowing for deeper cultural immersion. By staying longer in one place, you can lower your overall carbon footprint and contribute more meaningfully to the local community. Impactful Travel has always encouraged our travelers to avoid hasty itineraries, enjoy deeper immersive experiences, travel further off the beaten path, and make meaningful, positive impacts on their chosen destinations.

Recommended Flight Routes to Fly more Sustainably

Here are some example routes to consider for more sustainable travel:

  • From the US/Canada to Costa Rica: There are several direct flights from US airports into San José and Liberia airports, that are environmentally friendly options.
  • From Europe to Costa Rica: the direct Air France flight from Paris is the most emission-friendly option from most European cities. Taking the train instead of flying to Paris would be an amazing idea, of course!
  • From the US/Canada to Peru: Opt for direct flights from Atlanta, Miami, Mexico City or Panama to Lima. Or even better: choose a direct flight to Bogotá, and then a continuing flight directly to Cusco. 
  • From Europe to Peru: Fly from Madrid to Lima with Iberia for one of the least contaminating options. Thanks to the great train connections from Spain, France and Italy to Madrid, you might want to consider taking the train there.
  • From USA / Europe to Ecuador: Consider flying via Madrid, Atlanta or Miami to Quito for an efficient route. Use Google Flights from your home city and check the “less Emissions” option. And:
  • Flying to and from the Galapagos: Due to park regulations, you can only fly directly to The Galapagos Islands from Quito or Guayaquil. Many flights from Quito make a stopover in Guayaquil, so if Guayaquil has a good connection with your home airport, it would be worth considering flying in or out from Guayaquil instead of Quito. Of course, our custom itineraries for Ecuador and the Galapagos can take all of this into account for you, so you will travel most logically and efficiently.

By making mindful choices about how and where you travel, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and promote a more sustainable future. Maybe we might even inspire the airlines together by showing (off) our sustainable choices. At Impactful Travel, we believe that every journey has the potential to create positive change—not just for the traveler, but for the world.

For more insights on how to fly more sustainably, refer to the original article by Better Places (in Dutch).

Happy and sustainable travels!

A sustainable traveller, is a happy traveller! Fly more sustainably to Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica with Impactful Travel
A sustainable traveller, is a happy traveller!

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Impactful Travel's mission is to empower transformative journeys through sustainable and responsible experiences, we are committed to enriching lives - both for travelers and local communities in Latin America.

We seek to connect meaningful tourism experiences with a committed global audience, enhancing communities and encouraging sustainable choices.

Together with you, we improve day by day, on the always-demanding path towards sustainability.


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