Air travel can be the bane of any well-meaning environmentalist. One flight can spew tons of carbon and other pollution into the air, but let’s face it, there are few reasonable alternatives for jetsetters. So it’s great to hear that when Boeing set out to design their new airplane, the 787 Dreamliner, it made sure that one of its main goals was that of reducing its carbon emissions. It wasn’t just designed with fuel efficiency in mind, Boeing made sure that passenger comfort and interior design played a role in improving the overall pleasure of flying. Check out a great video about the Dreamliner from Scribemedia, featuring John Barratt, CEO of Teague and design consultant for the aircraft. Air travel may never be the most sustainable option, but Boeing’s efforts are a step in the right direction.
Using new technologies, such as using lightweight carbon-fiber for the fuselage and wings, instead of aluminum sheeting, Boeing was able to reduce the airplane’s weight. It also increased the fuel efficiency of its new engines, yielding an overall reduction of fuel consumption of almost 30%. Because of the new materials, the humidity in the cabin can be much higher than before, which will provide for better passenger comfort.
Air travel is a tricky proposition for any well-meaning person trying to reduce their carbon footprint. In 2004, NASA documented how the increase in air travel could account for half a degree increase per decade in the past 30 years, and that figure would only rise as air travel becomes more affordable and ubiquitous.
There are, however, a few ways or strategies to help account for our own air travel-related emissions- for example, the purchase of carbon credits (and this is probably one of the few activities where the use of carbon credits actually makes sense) and/or an increase in airplane taxes for those who travel excessively via airplane.
As it is, a more efficient airplane is a step in the right direction. From the looks of it, the Dreamliner looks to be a revolutionary aircraft in this regard, and it’ll be interesting to see what other steps the airplane manufacturers will take to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel.