Digital Nomads and Sustainability

The number of Digital Nomads has been growing exponentially over the last few years. With this ever growing community, it is important to take the Sustainability aspect into account. We believe that by creating a Sustainable environment from the beginning on; it will inspire future Digital Nomads to travel more sustainable as well. Also see our 10 tips for traveling more sustainable as digital nomad.

Flying more environmentally friendly

If you cannot avoid a flight, try to follow some of the tips below to limit your impact. When flying it can save a lot of fuel by taking direct flights. Take off and landing use enormous amounts of fuel relative to the flight. By paying a little bit more for a direct flight you not only enjoy more comfort, but also help save some fuel that is burned for no reason at all. Also flying Economy Class will limit your footprint as more people will fit in one plane. The space of 1 business seat can sometimes seat over 5 people. We would need 5 planes if everybody flew business. Even when following these tips you will be responsible for a Carbon Footprint. Make sure you at least Compensate CO2 for all your flights and kilometers. This will help fund more sustainable alternatives and speed up the transition to sustainable alternatives.

Sustainable driving by car

Driving is much less polluting compared to flying. Whenever you can, take the car instead of flying. This is especially true for shorter flights. Go on a roadtrip and enjoy the country you are traveling trough. Just one seat in an airplane usually causes more pollution then a complete car traveling that same distance. That car can hold 5 people, that seat only one. If you drive, make sure your tires are properly inflated. Having the right tyre pressure will help you save petrol. If you can, try to limit your speed. Usually 100/110 km/u seems to be the optimal. Any speed above this will increase your fuel usage and CO2 pollution rapidly. Driving a little slower will make your trip more comfortable and save on fuel. And finally, be aware of the air conditioning and charging electronic devices from your car. A full blazing AC can cause in increase of 10% in fuel usage. And that smartphone that is charging is simply using petrol to charge itself.

Digital Nomads and the Environment

It’s an exciting time to be a Digital Nomad; a new community which seems to be growing and growing as the years go by. Although it might appear to be just be a cool term for ‘Independent Location Worker’, it differs in the sense of community that is created by this growing group. Digital Nomads seem eager to create a new future, in which we say goodbye to our dirty old habits and grow towards a sustainable and prosperous future.

Although I love being a Digital Nomad, one of my major objections is the impact of travel on the environment. Even though it sounds amazing to be traveling every week, the amount of released CO2 should not to be ignored in this lifestyle. Digital Nomads are not in one location, and actually travel around the whole globe, reaching from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro, from Cape Town to Vancouver. As a Carbon Pirate myself, and active in the battle against CO2 pollution, this is a sincere problem for me; and I am figuring out how to do the most I can to limit my pollution.

It’s a bit too easy to simply say that Digital Nomads are high polluters just because they travel a lot. There are many factors that come into play, and I would like to have a deeper look at some of them.


Digital Nomads Travel; a lot. We are proud of the fact we have no fixed home base. We are proud to explore the world while working on our laptops. And we are not afraid of flying. Because this lifestyle is rather new there are no numbers of how many miles an average digital nomad travels per year. To get a better estimate I have looked at my own travels over the last 6 months and cross referenced this with some other Digital Nomads. I will save you the calculations for now, but the total sums up to:

Kilometers traveled Flying: 19360 –> 2.5t CO2 (This probably needs to be multiplied by a factor 2 due to ‘radiative forcing‘. Kilometers traveled by driving: 8000 –> 1.5 t CO2

This brings the total amount of released CO2 due to travel up to 4t CO2 for 1 digital nomad in 6 months.

In the Netherlands the average amount of kilometers traveled per person per year is 20.000km. Business people seem to be way above this average. Digital Nomads actually seem to travel less for work purposes. We tend to work close to where we live. The coffee place around the corner, the co-working space in town or our own living room. The numbers above are based on personal experience, and especially flying to long distance locations can make a huge impact. The CO2 pollution based on these 6 months would be around 8.0 ton per year, just for travelling.

To put this into perspective, we all should try to limit our total polution per year to 2.0 ton per person a year to slow down and reverse climate change (eventually we should get to 0.0 t). The amount of CO2 a citizen of the EU produces each year on average is 9.1t; so just by travelling we remain only slightly below the average. Overall, the Carbon output of Digital Nomads is still way too high. We should work as a community to bring awareness and try to limit our footprint.

CarbonPirates is helping Digital Nomads travel more Sustainable. Read about our believes and join our community to be part of the solution.

Note: The statements in this post are personal opinions. Even though I try to be as factual as possible, some things are not proven (yet) by (scientific) evidence.