Going Green with Your Travel Program, Part 1

Read part I of our three-part series discussing ways some organizations are decreasing their ecological footprint. Have you ever considered what impact business travel has on the environment? Truth is, more and more individuals are taking their environmental footprint into consideration when it comes to their travel decisions. A recent survey conducted by travel research firm PhoCusWright discovered that almost half of all travelers try to be environmentally friendly when they travel. And, one third of travelers don't mind paying more for green rental cars, hotels and resorts. The study also indicated that this trend remains strong, even in the face of current economic conditions.

Business travel's impact on the environment

Inevitably, business travel produces carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists agree contributes to climate change. According to the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), U.S. businesses accumulate an average of 240 million miles of air travel every year per company. It's been estimated that the aviation industry, as a whole, is responsible for two to four percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. Ground transportation such as taxis and rental cars are high producers of carbon emissions, as well.

However, transportation isn't the only factor of business travel making an impact on the environment. Hotels can also have a significant effect on the environment –consuming huge amounts of energy and water and producing large quantities of waste water and solid waste.

Travel green and cut costs

Greening your travel program doesn't mean your company has to drastically reduce travel or eliminate it altogether. While teleconferencing and Web-conferencing can be cost-effective and environmentally friendlier alternatives to traveling for face-to-face meetings, those solutions are not always the best way to meet your organization's needs. But there are other ways your organization can shrink its environmental impact and even reduce travel costs.

In fact, just a few small changes to how your employees travel can make a difference. For instance, taking more direct flights reduces the miles on trips, and in turn, the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. While direct flights can sometimes be more expensive, increasing the pre-booking window can reduce price disparity.

With flying accounting for up to 90 percent of a carbon footprint when traveling, using ground transportation methods instead of flying are a good option for business travelers looking to be more environmentally friendly. Encouraging employees to travel by train when possible can be less expensive than air transportation and, in some cases, may save time. Another way to decrease carbon emissions and cut travel costs is to coordinate group ground transportation to minimize the amount of vehicles and trips to and from the airport, hotels and meetings. And, using green car rental companies, green taxis and public transit are other alternatives for reducing greenhouse gases.

Is it important for your organization to be green? Stay tuned for part II on carbon offsetting.

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