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Is the new Google Flight carbon-emission feature just a green wash- or a useful tool for travelers?


A new feature from Google can help some jetsetters feel a little less guilty about their travel decisions.

Google Flights GOOGL,
+ 1.13%
Launched a new function on Wednesday that allows travelers to find carbon emissions estimates for different flight options. Information appears in flight search results and on the booking page, and people can sort their results by the carbon emissions associated with each flight.

The feature depends on the emission estimates of the European Environment Agency. In the Help Center, Google GOOG,
+ 0.86%
“The new tool is designed to help you choose more sustainable travel,” he said. (Google did not return a request for comment.)

Travel experts suggest that this feature may have a larger captive audience. “Members tell us all the time that even if they like to travel, the environmental impact of air travel in particular is enough to give them a break,” said Willis Orlando, a member of Scots Cheap Flight Operations Specialist. “While this is certainly not the primary concern of our members, it is very clear that there is an enthusiastic subset of interested travelers who are becoming increasingly concerned about what impact their next travel environment may have.”

Travelers can use the information they collect from Google Flight’s new tool to determine how effective it is for storage purposes.

The carbon footprint of air travel varies greatly

It turns out that, according to travel and conservation experts, a small choice like a premium seat or another aircraft with an airline can actually make a significant difference in terms of environmental impact.

Daniel Scott, a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said, “Travelers will find out how much difference airline, seat class, routing and destination choices can make on the carbon footprint of their business or vacation travel.” Change and tourism.

A report released in July by the International Council on Clean Transport said the least harmful travel route could emit 63% less carbon dioxide as the most polluted flight. This difference may depend on a number of factors.

A more densely packed flight may have smaller footprints than the one where the aircraft occupies a lot of space in first and business class. Older planes emit more greenhouse gases than newer aircraft. Even the specific flight of the aircraft can play a role.

A screenshot of Google Flights Search shows the carbon emissions associated with various travel options.

The way Google shares this information is not necessarily straightforward at first glance. Orlando said, “The raw numbers provided by Google will hardly tell the average consumer what effect their flight will have.” “You can only imagine that most people’s eyes have started to burn.”

An alternative from American Airlines AAL, to study flights between New York and Miami,
-4.33%
This will emit 341 kilograms of carbon dioxide, while another alternative from Delta DAL,
-1.61%
Carries only 220 kilograms of carbon dioxide footprints. The price difference was only 10 10, and in terms of environmental impact better options are available from low cost carriers such as Frontier ULCC,
-4.13%,
Spirit and Jet Blue JBLU,
-2.67%.

The strategy of shopping based on emissions is not foolish though. Caroline Till, managing editor of SmartTravel, said: “Airlines often change planes without notice, so you may not always get the same amount of carbon emissions.

See also: Jet Blue Accelerates Sustainable Jet Fuel Purchases at New York Airports

There are allegations of green washing against the airlines

Young environmentalist Greta Thanberg has spoken out in favor of the carbon-offset program, which allows travelers to charge extra when buying plane tickets. That money usually goes to climate-friendly initiatives such as planting trees or installing solar panels.

Till argued that in addition to encouraging people to buy tickets for flights with small footprints, the new Google Flights tool could increase the popularity of the offset program.

But these programs and other environmentally friendly efforts in the aviation sector have come under scrutiny. The actual green tourism is a very small subset of the overall industry, said Edward H., a professor at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands.

Read more: After completing the Bezos Blue Origin mission, many ask what is the impact of climate change?

“The reality is that most of the effort is like plastering over hemorrhaging wounds, like hanging up your towel to save water for washing at the hotel,” Huizbens said.

A recent report published in the academic journal Tourism Management found that airlines’ claims about their carbon offset offers were sometimes misleading and that they were involved in “green” marketing and were used as tools to improve their corporate image. In particular, more than half of the airlines that have studied their carbon-offsetting products or programs are described as carbon-neutral, while in reality these products do not neutralize emissions but instead mitigate them, the researchers wrote.

Scott argued that the new Google Flights tool, though, could actually improve accountability.

“There is a lot of green smoke in the aviation sector and that is why it is important for third party data sources like Google to provide consumers with transparent and data-driven information so that they are able to make climate responsible decisions without spin,” he said.



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