Concordia’s Sustainable Action Fund Get International Students to Fly Carbon Neutral with Flightnook

In terms of citizen support, it is difficult to find a city more energized in the fight against climate change than Montreal. In last year’s Climate March, half a million people gathered demanding climate justice.
Even before this, the city has been the backdrop for initiatives led by grassroots community activists tackling climate change. The city’s mayor, Valerie Plante has invested heavily on environmental fronts, especially green mobility and was the only municipal politician to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit.
The city is also heavily influenced by the mass of forward-looking students demanding action on climate. In November 2019, Concordia University announced they would be divesting from fossil fuels over the next six years. This came after years of protests from students, showcasing the power they hold for enacting change and may well inspire other universities in Montreal to follow suit.
Montrealers have a penchant for collective action, but they also know an important aspect of the ongoing grassroots activism being accountable for one’s own carbon footprint and working to decrease it on a day-to-day. From going zero waste, carrying reusable water bottles, and composting at home, students are leading the charge when it comes to making our daily habits more sustainable. However, for many Concordia students, the largest part of our carbon footprint comes from an action it doesn’t feel we can control.
For Concordia’s 13,500 international and out-of-province students, it’s likely you fly from your hometown to attend the university or go home for Christmas. And, especially if you come from out West, there’s no real low-carbon solution to get home.
This year Concordia’s Sustainability Action Fund (SAF) offered a carbon-neutral way to get home some international or out-of-province students!
Sebastian Di Poi, Executive Director at SAF, said, “SAF is committed to supporting projects that fight against human-induced climate change. Ideally, that means no air travel. At Concordia, there are thousands of international students who depend on flights to be able to reunite with their families and homes, therefore making air travel necessary. By supporting Flightnook, SAF hopes that this necessary air travel will be mitigated through the education of students about the effects of air travel and by providing carbon neutral options should students have no other option than to fly.“
By teaming up with Montreal-based startup Flightnook, SAF made three student’s flights carbon neutral. In mid February a call out went to international students to apply to have their flight’s home rendered carbon-neutral.
Students were directed to Flightnook’s carbon calculator which calculates your ecological footprint, the exact CO2 and non-CO2 emissions of your flight. From there, you have the choice of making your flight carbon neutral by either planting trees or purchasing cleaner jet fuel.
SAF subsidized this project through Flightnook to save 7 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions preserving 20m^2 of arctic ice melting.
Tree planting is a well known carbon offset activity, cleaner jet fuel less so. Cleaner jet fuel exists today to cut an airplane’s CO2 emissions up to 80% on a lifecycle assessment. Instead of taking carbon out of the atmosphere, cleaner jet fuel prevents the initial carbon emissions.
Cleaner jet fuel is more expensive than the fossil fuel kerosene that airplanes currently fly on. In this project SAF pays the price difference for cleaner jet fuel so the cleaner jet fuel is used for a future flight.
Because it attacks the problem at its root and prevents emissions from entering the atmosphere, cleaner jet fuel is the most viable way to decarbonize aviation in the short- and mid-term future.
For those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint, fliers must join this solution because of aviation’s outsized climate impact.
In a July 2019 article, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year. This creates a massive dilemma for Concordia students who want to minimize their yearly carbon output while still being able to visit their families and homes during the summer or over school breaks. For many, not flying is simply not an option and citizens must demand eco-friendly travel.
For more reading and details on air travel’s climate impact, click here.
Concordia students Şiva, Juliette, and Aakashdeep won Concordia’s conscious flyer competition to have their most recent flights rendered carbon neutral.
Şiva, a student in Marketing and Management said, “Each year I take two roundtrips to see my family in Turkey. Until now I didn’t know about the climate impact of flight. Popularizing cleaner jet fuel as a solution is a great step for climate.”
Avid traveller and marketing and sustainability student Juliette said, “I love flying. Or I should say, I love traveling, exploring and discovering. However, the guilt often creeps in regarding emissions from the flights. As a student in sustainability, I am well aware of the consequences these emissions have on our planet. Unfortunately, as time goes, flight numbers are only increasing and not going down any time soon.
I was happily surprised to receive the news about winning the Conscious Flyer contest. Before heading off to Costa Rica a couple of weeks prior, I knew I was going to offset my flight already, but being a student, money is not yet abundant and I could feel the reluctance there. Now that my flight has been offset, I can feel a bit more ease with myself, even though the mental struggle is still present.
Flightnook offers a solution where one gets to understand where the money actually goes. It presents a much more well-rounded solution where the consumer is informed and makes the decision with awareness.”
Flying to Hyderabad, India, Aakashdeep is already familiar with aviation’s climate impact, as his father works in the field. While partaking in the conscious flyer project, he says, “We see the pace of environmental change surging, and as an individual your capacity to fix it is incredibly restricted. With the Conscious Flyer project, carbon emissions and their warming impact is prevented, including the impact of that heat on species and biological systems. This is one individual solution with a big impact.”
As of June 19th, Concordia University’s Geography faculty has adopted a Flying Less Policy. At the front lines of research and climate change, these academics have decided to watch their individual impact. Academics around the world are asking these same questions, and have led initiatives like No Fly Climate Sci to commit the research world to a low-carbon culture.
Embedded in this policy is recognition that a career in academia requires flight. For Concordia faculty members and other academics, we invite you to use the Flightnook calculator to track your anticipated emissions and prevent them from being released.
For climate nerds out there, there is evidence cleaner jet fuel also cuts non-CO2 emissions from flight, like methane, nitrous oxide, and lessen contrail production. With initiatives like the Conscious Flyer project with the Sustainability Action Fund and Flightnook, fliers can directly impact the environmental future of flight.
Help us to better understand your needs and how we can engage with your fellow students by taking part in this short survey. Climate action is sometimes much simpler than you think 🙂