I definitely take for granted the staggering innovation and energy it takes to get a six hundred tonne air bus off the ground. But it's important to try not to take the flight for granted, and hold awareness for the ecological cost.
They say that we each should use only 2 tonnes of carbon a year in life, to curb climate change. But in the UK we have one of the worst emissions per person of 10 tonnes a year. But contrast a Nepalese person uses only 0.1 tonnes. Transportation accounts for one third of carbon emissions, and so is a great place to start becoming more eco-conscious. There may be a more sustainable solution for your the sojourn
0.1 tonnes of CO2 - A flight from London to Edinburgh.
0.02 tonnes of CO2 - A coach from London to Edinburgh.
0.03 tonnes of CO2 - A train from London to Edinburgh (though the cost is astronomical!)
When setting off on short term, short haul adventures, you could explore taking one for the planet and trying to plan other transport instead. This year, a last minute, long weekend in France was far too frivolous for a ''f**K it, I'll fly," - for me personally. So I took bikes, buses and taxis to traipse into the Alps. Yeah, I forgot my ski helmet in the skuffle, spent over twice times as much money and arrived back half a day late for work, but I did feel quite good about it.
C A T C H I N G C O A C H E S
Tailoring a more adventurous trip on coaches fulfils a bit of a romantic adolescent, runaway notion for me, and I love sitting cross legged in the back seats with a plethora of carefully arranged, homecooked, plastic free snacks feeling like the misunderstood, independent protagonist in some ninetees rite of passage movie.
To accommodate this bizarre fantasy, Megabus (for UK travel) and Flixbus (for Europe travel) are very easy to arrange, and have a much lower footprint than flights per passenger. Though they take a lot longer, the journey can be spent throughout the night to pass the hours deep in dream. Getting to the north of England to visit my sister for £10 over night is easy, less faff door to door, and makes me feel better about the fuel than about flight.
National Express offers some killer deals for international travel and coach cards can be quite good to lower the cost of your journeys, which you can generally recuperate after one or two rides.
With the right mix of delicious snacks and distractions, you could comfortably kick off a snooze in London Victoria at 9pm, and wake up in Amsterdam ready to roll at 9am - having saved the cost of a night in a hostel, all for under £20.
T A K I N G T R A I N S
The relaxing, rocking roll of a train trundling through the countryside is a delight no doubt, but fair enough the notorious cost is cause for discomfort. Our privatised railways are a complete disgrace.
I've bought about bunch of National Railcards that generally save a third off every journey (and you can normally recuperate your cost in just one or two journeys).
The local Regional Railcard are more geographically specific but also have good savings over multiple journeys and if there's a convoy, Group Tickets can save you up to 50%!
Veteran train travel guru Mark Smith has worked for, and wandered on, millions of train services around the world and can offer all the advice under the sun on European and international train travel. Use his awesome Seat 61 site so you can slide sustainably through the Swiss Alps and save nitric oxide and tiny bit of plastic plane cutlery falling from above.
F O R F L I G H T S
Air travel has billowed and grown quicker than a con trail in recent decades. According to the UK's own Department for Transport, if passenger numbers increase at current rates, they will almost double by 2050. The aviation industry is able to expand at such a barmy rate so rapidly because regulatory and taxing policies do not reflect the true environmental costs of flying. And what's worse, the international travel industry somehow managed to sneak out of any industrial climate targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. So there is no incentive for giant companies to reduce their fleets, flights and footprints.
It's up to us to help make some changes, by trying to consider our demand for air travel. She says sanguinely, from the forests of India... I recently went through a stage of flight fury, vowing never to take to the skies without a deadly emergency. But now, I've realised I want to live freely and positively without anger and judgement, and be able to venture on some more travel in my life!
Firstly though, be aware that the mentality of shorter flights are more harmful because there are often more empty seats, and takeoff and landing burn more fuel than cruising. So, though jet setting for the shores of India, all internal travel across the vastness of the continent will be undergone in spine realigning rickshaws and dangerously driven buses and coaches.
But indeed, for longer journeys overseas, flights are still a necessity - unless you're willing to spare a few months stowed away in the crevices of some rusty freight containers aboard sea faring shipping vessels... No? If not, maybe check out some carbon offsetting.
O F F S E T T I N G
Carbon Offsetting is a hot topic, and the global carbon market is fraught with a toxic history of corporate corruption. Rich countries have long capitalised on the economic needs of poorer, low-emitting countries by buying their carbon credits from them like climate cartels, buying themselves more opportunities for legally polluting at mass scale.
When you buy an offset, you are basically paying someone to cut emissions so you don’t have to. Good offsetting programs are transparent, verified by a third party, and blend environmental impact with social development directives. So companies with 'Verified' and 'Gold Standards' are more trustworthy. However, donating the respective amount (read on below, this is more than most calculators will tell you) to an amazing ecological charity is the best way to spend your pennies.
S T E P O N E
If you’re a greenhouse gas geek you can can start by checking Atmosfair’s most efficient airline index 2017. Download the report and start on page 6 to see who's more sustainably minded, who's got a more ethical air and who's still got their head in the clouds….
S T E P T W O
When you've picked your flight partner, use an online carbon calculator to associate yourself with your emissions.
Here's where it gets tricky...
Climate calculators vary wildly regarding their the repercussions of air travel:
Carbon Footprint tells me my London to Nepal flight costs 1.07 tonnes of CO2. Not bad.
Climate Care ups the ante with a value of 1.88 tonnes.
CO2.MyClimate points a finger of 2.5 tonnes my way.
But I strongly recommend using Choose Climate for your calculations. Which shows a more accurate accumulative impact for atmosphere of 5 tonnes! And here's why:
Most calculators only include carbon emissions, because the world and its industries literally deal in carbon economically, in an attempt to internationally engage on climate change.
But when jet fuel is burned, the carbon fuel bonds with oxygen to spew out carbon dioxide. Burning jet fuel also releases water vapour, nitrous oxides, sulphate, and soot.
Cruising at high-altitudes in the atmosphere, these emissions have a much more harmful climate impact (up to four times worse than simply just CO2) because they trigger a series of chemical reactions and atmospheric effects that have a worse net warming effect in a much more immediate, intensive sense. CO2 is more like a slow cook oven, whereas these other gases are a flash fry in a sizzling wok.
So if we are aiming to repay Mother Nature for trips to Asia, we would do better to appreciate and include the full spectrum of our flight pollutants.
True, Choose Climate seems a bit nuts. It's like the eccentric cyber offspring of a beige clad, wool-vested geography teacher from the 1990s. But the line between genius and insanity is often fine one...
Use the map to click your origin and destination, and look here for your Total Warming amount.
Now my 1.8 tonnes tonnes of carbon has increased to just over 5 tonnes! Bugger.
S T E P T H R E E
Next step, offset.
D O N A T E
An option is to take the equivalent amount of money accumulated and donate it to larger, more experienced and successful organisations. As an alternative this money could empower groups working in the greater sphere of climate change.
One that I'm feeling passionate about is Cool Earth which works alongside rainforest communities to tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions from rainforest loss. Their latest annual report asserts that Cool Earth has protected more rainforest through community partnerships than any government or NGO, and so may be judged the most cost-effective, non-profit at mitigating climate change through direct action. I would like to see their projects grow and strengthen all around the world.
Support Cool Earth.