In recent years, the importance of sustainability has taken center stage across various industries, including travel. According to the Sustainable Travel Report 2023 by Booking.com, there is a significant and encouraging trend towards sustainable travel.
An impressive 76% of respondents expressed their aspiration to travel in a more sustainable way within the upcoming year. This growing demand for eco-conscious travel experiences has paved the way for the integration of sustainability principles into the travel industry.
Transportation, particularly air travel, is a major contributor to carbon emissions. Recognizing this challenge, various sectors within the travel industry have joined forces to develop solutions that promote sustainability.
Airlines and booking websites are now leveraging digital tools to help travelers make greener choices and reduce their carbon footprint. This is where the concept of digital nudging comes into play.
Digital nudging refers to the use of subtle, persuasive design elements in digital platforms to influence user behavior towards more sustainable actions. Green digital nudging takes this approach a step further by specifically targeting environmentally friendly choices.
As David Jensen, the Digital Transformation Coordinator of UNEP said, “Green digital nudges help consumers make better decisions as well as collectively drive businesses to adopt sustainable practices through consumer pressure.”
Eco-Friendly Filter Options
One noteworthy example comes from Google Flights, which introduced a new feature in 2021 alongside the usual price, duration, and departure time filters: Less emissions.
This innovative filter enables travelers to prioritize flights with lower emissions when making their bookings.
Research conducted by Google on the impact of the "Less emissions" filter has shown promising results. They found that when travelers were exposed to the carbon emissions information, there was a 12% increase in the selection of lower-emission flights.
Greener Choice Labels
Flight search websites like Skyscanner have also stepped up to the plate by introducing Greener Choice Labels. These labels utilize green leaf symbols to highlight flights with lower CO2 emissions compared to the route average.
This visual cue helps travelers identify and choose flights that align with their sustainability goals, promoting informed and eco-friendly decision-making.
Research conducted by Skyscanner on the impact of Greener Choice Labels indicates that travelers are more likely to choose flights with lower CO2 emissions when presented with this information.
This suggests that digital design elements, such as the use of visual symbols, can help to influence consumer choices towards more sustainable options.
Carbon Offsetting Programs
Digital platforms are not only focused on enabling travelers to make sustainable choices upfront but also on mitigating the environmental impact of their travel. Hopper, a popular travel booking app, has implemented a carbon offsetting program.
For every hotel or flight booking made through their app, Hopper plants up to four trees to offset the environmental impact. By incorporating this initiative seamlessly into the booking process, customers can contribute to sustainability efforts effortlessly, without incurring any additional costs.
This effortless contribution to sustainability has gained traction among travelers, as evidenced by a study conducted by the University of Oxford. The research highlights a 57% increase in the likelihood of travelers selecting a carbon offset when provided with the option.
Flight Emissions Calculators
SAS Airlines has taken sustainability a step further by implementing a flight emissions calculator. This digital tool provides travelers with insights into the environmental impact of their flights, empowering them to make informed choices.
By visualizing the emissions associated with different flight options, travelers can evaluate the sustainability of their travel plans and make adjustments if needed. For instance, they may opt for a more direct route or choose alternative modes of transportation that have lower environmental impacts.
SAS Airlines goes the extra mile in its commitment to sustainability by offering travelers the option to purchase biofuel for their flights. Biofuel is a sustainable aviation fuel that can replace fossil fuels in airline operations.
Passengers can select the biofuel option when booking a ticket, allowing them to contribute directly to reducing carbon emissions.
Additionally, SAS Airlines recognizes the importance of incentivizing eco-conscious choices and rewards members of their frequent flyer program, EuroBonus, with extra points for choosing this environmentally friendly option.
While many travelers express their desire to see sustainable travel options when booking a flight, the reality is that the gap between intentions and actions remains significant.
A study conducted by TNMT, the research branch of Lufthansa Innovation Hub revealed that out of the 73% respondents who expressed their willingness to pay extra for reforestation or carbon offsetting, only 1% actually followed through with offsetting their carbon emissions. This highlights the challenge of ensuring broader user engagement and participation in sustainability efforts.
The responsibility for promoting eco-friendly travel lies not only with travelers but also with travel and airline websites. To bridge the gap between intentions and actions, it is essential to make the process more user-friendly and convenient.
Prioritizing Convenience for Passengers
Realistically, despite expressing a willingness to search for more sustainable travel options, most travelers still prioritize factors like price and flight time when making their choices. So, the challenge is to make it easier for them to choose greener options while considering their convenience and needs.
Make Sustainability More Visible
Many airlines already offer carbon-offsetting programs, but they often hide them at the bottom of the page or in hard-to-find places. This makes it difficult for travelers to notice and take advantage of these options.
To tackle this challenge, companies need to ensure that sustainable travel choices are more prominently displayed and easily accessible. Placing carbon-offsetting options in highly visible locations and integrating them seamlessly into the booking process can significantly create a sense of urgency.
All in all, making this world a better place, including the responsibility to ensure its sustainability, is not the responsibility of one person or one stakeholder. It’s everyone's role, and everyone can take part. Every small step towards sustainability counts!