Loyola University Chicago

School of Environmental Sustainability

Air Travel Resources

Carbon Emissions from Air Travel


In meeting the goals of “A Just Future”, Loyola’s Climate Action Plan, the University recognizes that one of the most significant sources of carbon pollution is air travel.

Airplanes use petroleum-based fuels which are combusted at ground-level and high-elevations. During combustion, these release emissions including particulates “soot”, carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxides, lead and black carbon which can increase cases of respiratory health incidents and localized pollutions. Additionally, at high-elevations, the emissions cause ‘radiative forcing’ which increases the amount of sunlight absorbed by the earth. This is thought to increase emissions 2 – 4 X the impact of CO2 emissions alone. Source: A Special Report of Working Groups I and III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that aviation is responsible for 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change and it could grow to 5% by 2050 if not addressed.

Emissions of passenger aircraft vary extensively but a LIPASTO (an emissions and energy use calculation system developed by the Finnish Transportation Agency)  survey of average direct emissions (not including radiative forcing) estimate the following per passenger;

  • Domestic, short distance – 14.7 oz/mile CO2e
  • Domestic, long-distance – 10.1 oz/mile CO2e
  • International, long-distance – 6.5 oz/mile CO2e

Reducing Emissions Options

Offset Quality and Verification

Carbon Offset Providers

LUC Air Travel Emission History

Cost per Offset

Additional Resources




Reducing Emissions Options

  • Measure your carbon footprint
    • There are many carbon calculators available online but we recommend these (link)
  • Reduce your air travel
    • Reconsider the value of your air travel. For most, we consider this an indicator of status, wealth, or value but many trips are unnecessary. There are many ways to remain connected to colleagues, academic communities, and loved ones without always being somewhere in person.
    • Options may include alternative modes of transportation including driving (may have a reduced carbon footprint if fuel-efficient and shared by multiple passengers), virtual or teleconferencing including webinars, Skype and other technology, and limiting air travel budgets (many of these costs are borne by the university or grant funding).
    • A very good source of information on air travel and academia can be found in this blog co-hosted by Joseph Nevins (Vassar College) and Parke Wilde (Tufts University).
  • Make the most of your air travel
    • Fly coach. The miles associated with business class seats emit three times as much as economy class due to the reduced passengers per mile. A first-class seat would be nine times as much. Source: World Bank study ‘Calculating the Carbon Footprint from Different Classes of Air Travel’
    • As with much of sustainability, we encourage a deeper and more intentional experience. Flights and short visits are often a necessity of convenience, however, try to expand your stay to accomplish multiple personal and professional goals. Don’t ‘fly-in and fly-out’ but use this visit to conduct other work, experience the place you are visiting, and make more out of your trip. One of the goals of travel is to broaden our experience and we don’t do that if we only see the insides of airports, conference centers, and taxi cabs.
  • Offset your air travel emissions
    • There are many options for offsetting your carbon emissions. Always confirm that you are purchasing third-party verified offsets which are “retired” upon your purchase.
      • Offerings by your travel provider – Your airline, travel aggregator (eg. Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) or travel agent may offer offset options often calculating carbon footprint directly from your travel plans.
      • Purchasing carbon offsets to address a single trip or project – The options listed below are available to provide verified carbon-reducing or avoiding projects.

Want to Offset Your Air Travel - Carbon Offset Providers

The providers listed below are reputable sources for carbon offsets or have partnered with high-quality projects. If you flying on one of the airlines listed, you can purchase your offsets as you purchase your airline tickets. If your airline does not offer offsets, you can calculate your air miles using this calculator and then purchase your offsets at one of the retail offset providers listed.

Cost Per Offset

Offset Quality and Verification

What is a Carbon Offset?
A carbon offset is a credit (usually measured as a ton of carbon) that an individual or an organization can purchase to negate one’s own carbon footprint. Offsets are investments in real projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. While one should first focus on reducing their own carbon footprint, there currently aren’t carbon-free alternatives for some activities, such as air travel. Carbon offsets support real projects that capture carbon dioxide (tree planting) or avoid carbon release (landfill gas capture, forest protection or no-till agriculture) and must be verified by reputable third-parties. For more information on the cost and quality of offset programs, please read below.

There are multiple offset standards that verify offset by standards including permanence, enforceability, additionally (would the activity happened otherwise?), and social or cultural aspects.

Some quality standards are:

Loyola University Chicago Air Travel Emissions History

Note: LUC uses FY2008 as our baseline inventory. We started regularly inventorying our GHG emissions with FY2011. The Study Abroad miles are provided by the Office of International Programs annually with their summary of students by program. Miles are estimated using average round-trip from city to city and emissions are calculated in most recent version of the Carbon Calculator. Faculty / Staff Travel miles are estimated from budget dollars reducing taxes and fees and the average cost per domestic/international air-mile provided by Airlines for America. For updated emissions visit this page for the most recent greenhouse gas inventory.

Fiscal YearCombined
Air MilesMetric Tons CO2e% of Total LUC Emissions
FY2008 19,204,557 10,720 12.60%
FY2011 25,158,351 15,944 20.40%
FY2012 24,296,478 14,335 19.40%
FY2014 22,808,719 10,654 13.40%
FY2015 22,915,492 11,055 15.50%
FY2016 22,927,845 9,995 11.20%


Fiscal YearFaculty/Staff
Air MilesMetric Tons CO2e% of Total LUC Emissions
FY2008  9,243,517 7,395  8.70% 
FY2011 12,176,840  8,302  10.60% 
FY2012 13,875,950  8,201  11.10% 
FY2014 16,297,433  7,345  9.20% 
FY2015 15,376,115  7,418  10.40% 
FY2016 14,735,897  6,043  7.20% 


Fiscal YearStudy Abroad
Air MilesMetric Tons CO2e% of Total LUC Emissions
FY2008  9,961,040 3,325 3.90% 
FY2011 12,981,511 7,642 9.80% 
FY2012 10,420,528  6,134  8.30% 
FY2014 6,511,286  3,309  4.20% 
FY2015 7,539,377  3,637  5.10% 
FY2016 8,191,948 3,952 4.00%
If you have any questions about air travel and carbon emissions contact the Office of Sustainability at sustainability@luc.edu.