By now, most people have heard something about the impact that fossil fuel emissions are having on our planet. We hear about food miles, we hear about offsetting and we are encouraged to get on our bikes or walk instead of driving our cars to reduce carbon emissions
Natural gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapour, act as an insulating layer around the Earth which allows the sun's radiation through, but prevents heat radiating out. This is the Greenhouse Effect which is natural and vital to life on Earth. The gases move between the oceans, forests and atmosphere in a natural cycle and over the Earth's lifespan the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has rarely changed.
More carbon is locked away in the form of fossil fuels (oil, coal etc) and does not naturally come into contact with the atmosphere until we dig it up and burn it, at which point it is released permanently. Growing amounts of these gases being pumped into the atmosphere are increasing the natural Greenhouse Effect, causing temperatures to rise, resulting in 'global warming'. This, in turn, may affect climate change, alterations to rainfall patterns, rises in sea levels and cause habitat change.
The use of jet fuel for flights contributes 2% of all CO2 emissions worldwide (source: World Economic Forum 2009). But aircraft fuel efficiency has doubled over the last 40 years, and over the course of a year the fuel burned by UK airlines represents only 0.5% of the UK's CO2 emissions, whereas people's homes account for around 25% of all UK CO2 emissions. (source: Sustainable Aviation, 2006)
But this 2% is still a great deal and we cannot ignore the impact of our business on the environment. But we are working on a number of other initiatives, such as reducing weight on the aircraft, utilising continuous descent approaches and improving pilot imformation that we can concentrate on to try and alleviate the consequences of our flying.
The theory is that you pay to have something done somewhere else to compensate for the carbon generated by the activity you are undertaking. The best known example of this is tree planting. This is a scheme whereby you calculate the amount of carbon your journey will generate and then plant a number of trees to absorb that amount of carbon, thereby ‘neutralising’ your flight. However a number of questions have arisen around this idea. Where does all the land come from for the trees? What grew there before? How long will the trees be there? Do the trees support the local flora and fauna?
Other offsetting ideas include contributing to renewable energy projects, buying alternatives such as low energy light bulbs and wood-burning stoves in areas where they could not otherwise be afforded and carbon trading.
The Reduce My Footprint initiative is a carbon reduction programme set up by ABTA (The Association of British Travel Agents), The Travel Association, and the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO). Reduce My Footprint offers individuals and businesses information and advice on how to reduce carbon emissions, as well as the opportunity to offset carbon emissions through various projects managed by The Travel Foundation and TICOS (The Tourism Industry Carbon Offset Service). You can check out your carbon footprint and then pay to offset it if you wish.
In September 2010 Thomas Cook Airlines became the first UK airline to achieve ISO 14001 certification. This certification was the result of a successful evaluation of our Environmental Management System which was conducted by leading assessment, verification and certification body, NQA. The evaluation included a comprehensive six-day audit of both our Head Office and some of our UK bases, which determined whether we met the ISO 14001 strict requirements. The certification clearly demonstrates that Thomas Cook Airlines recognises the importance of the environment in which we operate. However, our efforts do not stop here. As a result of our certification, we will be audited every six months by NQA to ensure that we continue to establish objectives and processes, implement the processes, measure and monitor them and, based on the results of process implementation, take action to improve performance of our Environment Management System.
Thomas Cook UK Airlines recognise that aviation is a contributor to climate change and are committed to reducing our impacts where we can. It is important that we use our aviation fuel efficiently in order to reduce our CO2 emissions. The airline is also implementing an Environmental Management System and has developed an environmental policy to demonstrate commitment to the environment.
We are a founding member of the Sustainable Aviation Initiative. This is an alliance of UK airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers and air traffic management focused on achieving verifiable reductions in noise and emissions.
We run an Operational Efficiency Working Group which constantly looks at ways to improve fuel efficiency and reduce fuel burn. Projects include reducing catering weights, flight planning improvements, improved provision of information to crew and using continuous descent approaches when appropriate.
We provide information on the impact of each flight through eco-labels positioned at the boarding door for each of our aircraft. The labels are similar to those you will see when buying electrical equipment. They provide clear and accurate information on the environmental impact of the aircraft journey including CO2 emissions and other pollution factors.
Thomas Cook UK Airlines launched a national onboard recycling scheme in January 2009 and were the first UK based charter airline to offer this type of service to short haul passengers flying into all UK airports. The cabin crew will collect any plastics, aluminium, paper and card in a separate rubbish bag which is then sent for recycling on landing.
All Thomas Cook offices have recycling stations and some offices, such as Brighton and Manchester, have even banned all desk bins to encourage even more recycling. We also ensure all brochures from our retail stores are recycled.
We are working in partnership with the Carbon Trust to identify a variety of energy efficiency projects and are starting to work towards becoming a low carbon business.
We encourage our staff to commute to work by alternative means. We are developing travel plans for our offices to ensure sustainable transport remains an area of focus.
Although ‘offset schemes’ are one option and great in principle, it’s even better if you can consider ways to cut down your own carbon emissions and waste in the long term. For example, did you know that:
Leaving your mobile phone charger plugged in when not in use still uses 5 watts of electricity every hour?
Leaving your PC on standby overnight uses enough energy to microwave six dinners?
The display clock on your microwave uses as much energy as the microwave itself?
Turning your thermostat down by 1 degree will reduce your heating bill by up to 10%?
Low energy light bulbs use only a quarter of the energy of normal light bulbs and last around 8 times longer?
It is not true that turning fluorescent lights on and off uses more energy than leaving them on.
10% of energy use in the developed world is caused by appliances being left on standby?
It takes 95% less energy to recycle an aluminium can than to make a new one?
A British Standard lagging jacket on your hot water tank costs around £10 and will save you around £20 a year on your energy bill?
Around 50 to 80% of car tyres are under inflated so that each car wastes around 5% of its fuel consumption?