This Wednesday, Google released a new feature that shows carbon emissions estimates for each flight’s price and future results for the duration of the flight.
It allows environmentally conscious travelers to factor in carbon emissions of their choice when deciding which aircraft to book.
These emission estimates are aircraft-specific and seat-specific. For example, Richard Holden, vice president of travel products at Google, said that newer aircraft are generally less polluting than older aircraft, and that the premium economy and first-class seats increase emissions because they take up more space and account for a larger share of total emissions. In a blog post.
These estimates put the aircraft with significantly lower emissions labeled with a green badge. If users want to prioritize carbon impact, they can sort all the results to bring green planes to the top of the list.
Choosing more environmentally friendly prices does not mean consumers have to empty their wallets. A study by the International Council for Clean Transportation this summer found that “choosing low-emission travel options should not increase costs for consumers.”
To calculate these estimates, Google combines data from the European Environment Agency with the aircraft-specific information we obtain from airlines and the type of aircraft, travel distance and number of seats in each seat category.
Partners in this initiative include domestic companies such as American Airlines and international companies such as German Airlines Lufthansa.
“Both Google and the Lufthansa Group have increased sustainability on the agenda, and we believe that transparency is key to creating trust in that regard,” says Annette Mann, Lufthansa’s senior vice president of corporate responsibility. “Based on that transparency, customers can choose to use sustainable aviation fuels or high-quality offsets to become fully carbon neutral when flying with Lufthansa Group.”
Google has also partnered with Travelist, a sustainable tourism nonprofit, to develop an open model for calculating carbon emissions from air travel that can be used as a gold standard throughout travel.
The business value of sustainable travel initiatives
Sustainable travel is not only important to Google – it is also important to its billions of users, according to James Byers, senior product manager at Google Flights.
“Since 2004, we’ve seen a steady rise in long, sustainable travel for sustainable travel,” Byers says. “What we are finding is that this is top of mind for a lot of travelers, especially as hobbies change, and we are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of climate change in particular.”
Travel habits and the role that consumers play in the travel ecosystem may have changed due to the epidemic. A survey released this summer by Booking.com found that “83% of global travelers believe that sustainable travel is important, while 61% say the epidemic wants to travel more sustainably in the future.”
Google’s aerospace partners are experiencing this change.
“Consumers prefer sustainability in terms of travel, and so do we,” says Jill Blickstein, managing director of American Airlines’ Environment, Social and Administration. “We believe travelers will see the results of those efforts over time to reduce our emissions and make progress on our journey to net zero.”
Last month, Google introduced a new feature on its search platform for travelers to easily find eco-certified hotels.
During a Google search for hotels, the results now have the tag “Eco-Certified” next to the green leaf, and the “Sustainability” tab shows what sustainability practices the hotel has received and what certifications it has received.
DrGoogle’s Sustainable Hotel Tools: Are you an eco-friendly traveler? Google is now recognizing hotels as Green Certified
DrMarriott’s sustainability commitment: Eco-friendly hotels? Marriott announced plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050
Byers said these steps are the first in Google’s push toward sustainability on the go, and many more to come in the future.
Byers suggests that Google’s Sustainable Travel team is looking at “other modes of transportation when we think about how passengers get around.”
Byers says Google can surface eco-certified locations in advance of its search experience for travelers looking for sustainable options.
According to Byers, the idea originated from Google’s 20% plan, which allows employees to devote 80% of their time to regular work and 20% of their time to creative side projects. Google launched the 20% project in 2004, but was overseen by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Michelle Shen is Money & Tech Digital Reporter. You can contact her @ michelle_shen10 on Twitter.