As Earth Day rolls around this year, Mother Earth seems even more in need of a little extra TLC as climate change has become a living reality for millions of people around the world. Even diehard climate deniers are grudgingly acknowledging the undeniable changes before their eyes — although they may attribute what they see to immutable phenomena like sunspots or natural cycles.

    So, as a person who travels for a living, what can you do to help put the brakes on climate change? Obviously no one person can do everything, but if enough of us make a few small changes in our travel habits, the incremental savings will add up to a significant positive impact.

    What is “Sustainable” Travel?

    Basically, sustainable travel is any practice, large or small, that helps reduce our personal carbon footprint and minimize harm to the environment. Air travel is a major contributor to CO2 emissions, and while airlines are stepping up to the plate with ambitious pollution reduction efforts, flying is unavoidable for most travel nurses. So how can you alter your personal flying habits to help the environment?

    First, look for an airline that has made a commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. While the greatest effort so far has been from overseas carriers, several US airlines have taken active steps toward greener flying. The environmental blog Leaf Score has published a list of green-aware airlines, which includes three US carriers: Alaska, American, and Delta. 

    When scheduling your trip, if possible, opt for a nonstop flight. A plane’s takeoff and landing consume relatively more fuel than cruising at altitude, so the more legs of your flight, the greater the pollution.

    As a frequent flyer, you’ve probably racked up a nice bank of perks. But instead of splurging those points on business class, do the planet a favor and opt for an economy seat instead. How can that help, when the prime seat and economy passengers all arrive at the same time? According to the New York Times, emissions associated with flying in business class are about three times as great as flying in coach. That’s because business class and first class seats are bigger, so fewer people are being moved by the same amount of fuel.

    Remember that TSA allows personal drink containers on planes once they’ve passed empty through security. So once you’re in the concourse, fill up with your favorite beverage at a concession or nearby water fountain and sip contentedly on the plane as you travel to your destination.

    Go Green Off the Plane, Too!

    Once on the job, if you like to pick up a coffee on the way to work, invest in a durable, reusable hot/cold drink mug. It’s true that companies like Starbucks stopped accepting personal containers during the height of the pandemic, but they and many other companies are once again welcoming the opportunity to reduce waste from disposables.

    You don’t have to be traveling long distances to make a difference. Even if you’re just running errands around whatever town you happen to be in, try to pack as many chores as possible into a single trip. Then, complete your chores in as much of a circle as possible to avoid backtracking. And if you have a bike, even better!

    So let’s go — mindfully. Mother Earth will love you for it.


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