Don't ask me not to fly!

“I’m off to see my son and grandchildren in the US next week!”

“I can build great networks at conferences overseas. So I’m going to Rome next month.”

“We love skiing, so we’re going to Japan next winter!”

Acting on climate change is a complex thing, especially when it involves our international travel.

Many of us in ARRCC are involved in some way in calling other people to change. We’re asking our business and political leaders to find more sustainable ways to make things. We’re asking them to prioritise renewables over fossil fuels. We’re asking them to speed up the introduction of electric cars and trains.

But many of us also recognise the need to change ourselves. By getting our own footprint down, we earn greater integrity to challenge our leaders to make hard changes. And after all, we are the consumers whose purchases necessitate the carbon-intensive production of ever-more TV’s, smart phones and clothes.

Therefore, many of us are trying to simplify our own lifestyles. We’re eating less meat, riding our bikes more, and installing induction stoves. The #Living the Change (www.livingthechange.net) initiative, with its neat commitment tool, makes thinking about and carrying out reductions all the more doable.

But some things are really hard to change. Some people find it very hard to not use their air-conditioner all summer. Some find it very difficult to eat significantly less meat. But arguably the toughest of all, is restricting our flying. In a globalised world, many Australian families have siblings, children or grandchildren living in another country. This seems to necessitate our international travel. Our roles at work can require us to attend Conferences, speak, attend meetings or lead workshops overseas. And that’s not to mention all those cheap and exotic overseas destinations for our next holiday.

I suspect that’s why flying is rarely part of the discussion on carbon reductions. Many people are talking about changing our diets and our driving habits, but very few, in my experience, are talking about reducing our air-miles.

But the carbon savings in reducing our air travel are considerable. One fewer international (return) flight next year, will save anything from 3-6 tonnes CO2e – much more than leaving your car in the garage all year!

So what can we do? As a starter, here are 5 ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your next travel:-

  1. It may sound obvious, but reduce the air-miles flown as best you can. That means once you’re at your destination (Asia/Europe/US), doing your domestic travel there by train or bus, rather than flying. That will have the added benefit of seeing more of the real country, than even more sanitised airports.
  2. Fly with fewer stopovers. A lot of fuel is used in take-off and landing, so a direct flight will reduce the carbon footprint of the travel. For example, if the cheapest flight to Europe has several stopovers through Asia, the direct flight, while often more expensive, will avoid more emissions.
  3. If you can’t get a direct flight, fly in as straight a line as possible. For example, if going from Australia to India, it’s better to go via south-east Asia, than via Hong Kong.
  4. If you do need to fly, then offset the carbon emissions from the flight. But be aware that many carbon offsetting options (like tree planting) are only beneficial in the future, whereas the damage to the atmosphere from flights happens when you take the flight. However, as a way of ‘repenting’ of the damage we’re causing to the environment by our travel choices, offsetting is still a good idea. One of the most genuine enterprises to do this through is Greenfleet.
  5. Most carbon-slashing of all, consider taking your next holiday domestically, and not flying at all!

Happy travels!

Mark Delaney