I’m not going to fly this year. Compelled to do something positive to help reduce CO2 emissions I’ve decided to sacrifice my holiday abroad. My generation have enjoyed more than three decades of flying round the world with impunity. We’ve had our fun and now it’s only fair that we are the first to change our ways. It’s not making me popular but I’m begging everyone I know – please don’t fly.
The Extinction Rebellion protests around the world have forced the debate on climate change. Like many, I’ve only just woken up to scale of the disaster. Greta Thurnberg said we must act ‘as if our house were on fire’. Recycling and composting are not going to be enough. What can we ordinary folk do that will make a difference?
In an interview that went viral the environmentalist and Guardian columnist George Monbiot pulled no punches. He said the only two things that individuals can do to make real change is to eat a plant based diet and stop flying.
What happens when we don’t fly?
I used the WWF carbon footprint calculator to study the impact of the long haul flight I took to the Seychelles last year. My carbon footprint was 12.3 tonnes which is 124% of the UK government’s target of 10.5 tonnes by 2020.
I’m surprised I didn’t meet the target – as a vegetarian without a car I tick more than a few green boxes. Deduct that one flight, however, and my score comes down to 9.2 tonnes. It’s still not great (to put it into perspective the world average is just 4.9 tonnes). I can’t do much about the way I heat my home but I can stop flying.
The cost of cheap flights
The IATA estimates that more than 4.5 billion passengers will take a flight in 2019 and this will almost double to 8.2 billion in 2037. I have friends who fly every school holiday, including half term, because cheap flights have made it possible. With no duty on aviation fuel or VAT on flights the cost is artificially low. The real cost in pollution to the planet is a heavy price to pay.
If you still choose to fly (I’m a realist) here are some tips to avoid doing more damage than necessary:
- Don’t fly multi-stop. Take-off and landing use masses of fuel so direct flights are better.
- Don’t fly at night. Jet contrails are more polluting at night so daytime is better.
- Don’t fly in an old plane. Airlines flying newer models are more energy efficient.
- Don’t fly short hops. When it comes to the environment any journey under 500 miles is better taken by train.
- Don’t take too much luggage. The heavier the plane the more fuel it uses so pack light.
All I ask is that you think twice before booking your next flight. If you have kids you owe it to them to help clean up their planet. I’m staying in the UK this year and I hope that many of you will too – it’s beautiful.