From the sky to the plate: Thrust Carbon unveils carbon emissions data for in-flight meals

11 April, 24
Thrust Carbon is the first company to introduce carbon emissions data for meals served to business travellers on flights.

Thrust Carbon is the first company to introduce carbon emissions data for meals served to business travellers on flights. Previously overlooked, these meal emissions account for a significant ~1% of a traveller’s total journey carbon footprint. At the global scale, business travellers make up ~12% of passengers, meaning that 564,000 tonnes of CO2e annually come from business travelers’ in-flight meals. To put this into perspective, the environmental impact of 564,000 tonnes of CO2e is akin to driving a small car for over 5.12 billion kilometres – equivalent to making the journey to the moon and back more than 13,300 times.

Calculating with ease

Thrust Carbon has successfully automated the calculation of carbon emissions from a traveller’s in-flight meal. This innovative approach empowers users to meticulously report emissions tailored to the travel class, including detailed breakdowns for complete meals, snacks (hot or cold), breakfast varieties, and beverages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic, hot). This granularity ensures that every aspect of in-flight dining is accounted for, providing unparalleled accuracy in carbon footprint assessment.

Understanding the Carbon Footprint of Meal Consumption

Why hasn’t food on flights been considered when calculating complete travel emissions? While the average Joe who takes one flight a year might not have a significant impact, frequent travellers like those who travel for business create a much larger footprint, increasing the overall effect on scope three emissions for companies, making it incredibly important to report on.

For example, a one-way economy flight from JFK to LHR emits, on average, 0.80 tCO2e per person, according to Thrust Carbon’s ICAO+ methodology. In comparison, the average emission from a meal, snack, and non-alcoholic drink served onboard is 0.00692 tCO2e. Although food and drink accounts for less than 1% (0.87%) of the emissions from a traveller on a JFK to LHR flight, it’s not insignificant when scaled up. In 2023, there were 3.5 million seats on flights from JFK to LHR. The total emissions from food for all these seats amounted to 24,220 tCO2e, equivalent to one person flying from New York to London 30,275 times.

A Novel Approach to Reporting

Thrust Carbon alone offers this dataset for airlines, highlighting approximately 1% of travel program emissions previously unreported. The service also caters to situations where food is available for purchase based on expense data.

Expansion to Cover Corporate Travel Share

Thrust Carbon will launch this capability in the first quarter of 2024. The future roadmap includes expanding this capability to other forms of transport and tracking meal emissions from expenses, marking a comprehensive approach to carbon emission reporting in travel.

A Message from Kudos Managing Director Phil Rasmussen

“Kudos Travel Technology is thrilled to be at the forefront of integrating Thrust Carbon’s innovative meal emissions calculation into our travel platform. For the first time, our customers can measure and understand the carbon footprint associated with their meal choices during flights. This groundbreaking feature enhances our commitment to sustainability and empowers our travellers to make more informed decisions that align with their environmental goals. In conjunction with our existing sustainable travel solutions for carbon reporting and offsetting, this additional level of granularity in reporting is a game-changer for the industry, enabling a more comprehensive approach to carbon management in corporate travel. Thrust Carbon’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in carbon accounting is not just admirable; it’s essential for our collective journey towards a more sustainable future.”

A Message from Thrust Carbon Founder, Kit Aspen

“This is an important step forward for business travel. It’s about time we start taking meals into account. We look forward to seeing the impact of this calculation and how it directly affects meal decisions on flights by both individuals and the airlines. We’re excited to see how many travellers and airlines use our technology to understand the footprint of their food decisions at every step of their journey. Food production is responsible for 26% of global emissions. In contrast, the aviation industry makes up 2.5% of global emissions, so if we take a holistic approach to improving the sustainability of business travel, this warrants assessment and consideration. A simple switch to plant-based meals could reduce emissions by almost 40%. Such a simple change for such a big impact!”

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