Climate-conscious travelers: How do you think about air travel?
September 21, 2019 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently living in Europe and have several trips I would like to take while I am here, many of which are only feasible by air travel due to time constraints or geographic constraints. I'm trying to live a more environmentally-friendly life (little/no meat consumption, low-impact consumer decisions, career oriented toward addressing environmental issues, etc.), but this is one area I'm very conflicted in.

I have read research many times and in many places about how bad air travel is for the environment, but this is one aspect of my life that I'm having a hard time making a big adjustment in. I want to see places that are only feasible to visit if I get on a plane, but I'm having a hard time justifying buying the flight tickets. I looked into carbon offsets a while ago, but many research studies have found they are not well regulated and often highly ineffective.

For those who have made or are making conscious decisions to try and live a more sustainable/low-impact life, how do you think about air travel? Is the only moral answer to limit air travel as much as possible, or have you found ways you can reasonable offset your impact? I recognize there are many people (and I myself have several friends) that travel 1-3 times a week for business, and that my impact is minimal compared to this type of travel, but I still have a hard time justifying taking several trips by air in a year.

I'm open to any suggestions, or criticisms of the way I think about this issue.
posted by unid41 to Science & Nature (34 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Warning, unpopular viewpoint follows: Honestly, the vast majority of environmental issues are cause by corporations, especially agricultural industries. It's good to do your part to live lightly, but the reality is that 3 minute showers, not using straws, and even recycling (sorry) are not doing all that much to offset the huge impacts of industry that as an individual you cannot overcome or change.

I wish it was otherwise. But that is the reality we live in. Changes have to be made on a federal and global level, and off-loading the responsibility of environmental protection onto consumers is the great lie of our time as it keeps people from advocating for true systemic change.

So no, I dont think passenger air travel is going to be what makes or breaks us. So take your flight. And plant some trees later, it's good to do.
posted by ananci at 9:00 AM on September 21, 2019 [60 favorites]

I recently attended a talk by someone working on climate activism, and he said he refuses air travel except to see family. He encourages web conferences and such for any business-related stuff.

I understand the idea that a single person recycling may not save the climate, but large plans full of consumers still feels like a giant environmental cost to me. I've mostly limited travel for cost reasons rather than environmental, but it's made me think a lot about how much I really "need" to travel, given the environmental impact.
posted by lazuli at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2019 [10 favorites]

Man, I’m really thinking about this a lot. As an academic I fly all the time, and rarely pay the cost myself f (indeed I rack up the FF miles) — or I used to. As an anthropologist I fly a lot to the Arctic and see climate change impacts first hand and accelerating. And I just bought a second home that requires several hours of driving to reach (but which will eventually be heavily solar powered). I live in a dense city and use public transportation and limit my plastic use as much as I can and stopped buying beef almost entirely but the flying feels like a big issue. I’ve recently decided I will no longer fly to academic meetings or to give invited talks already. But I’m late in my career and have that luxury. I’m trying to increase our use of video conferencing at my job in place of flying people in for meetings and talks. But the carbon footprint of flying is simply enormous and some of us have to really cut down on it. I can’t stop flying to do my research work, but where I fly to, the costs of carbon dependency are already devastating.

My current stance is to only fly for family necessity or research necessity. No more pure vacation travel. No more discretionary non-research work travel. I still feel guilty and like I’m helplessly spitting into the wind. Working on doing more a lot in my everyday, feeling shame on behalf of my generation.
posted by spitbull at 9:05 AM on September 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

I do think it's important that our way of life reflect our values to the extent it can--as a matter of our seriousness and commitment and the example we set, even if our individual choices can't really affect the problem in question. But purity of individual consumer choices is a rabbit hole that for people living outside certain communal support structures can lead to insanity. The way I look at it generally is that as a frail human being I have in me a certain capacity for sacrifice to doing right. That capacity can and should be exercised, and it can grow (and I can temporarily exceed it), but it is also inherently limited. I am not a person who can spend her life walking with a broom to sweep in front of her to avoid stepping on insects. I have to try to think of the best and most effective ways to use that capacity, not just the most obvious or emotionally appealing, while at the same time not just rationalizing to do anything I want. So, e.g., I work in a public-service sort of job that pays much less than a job in the private sector doing morally dubious things would pay, I've never owned a car and only even take a taxi less than once a week, etc., but, well, I still eat meat, and I don't see myself giving that up any time soon. You have to think about whether in any case you're being mesmerized by the prospect of a perfection that's unattainable to humans. That is, truly, an individual question.
posted by praemunire at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2019 [13 favorites]

You're having a hard time justifying it because you know in your heart of hearts that it's not justifiable. If you do it, don't even try. Just accept that your ethics aren't perfectly aligned with your actions. Nobody's are.

I quit airplanes years ago, and quit motor vehicles entirely early last summer. It's been frustrating learning new limits, but limits are a good way to grow, too. Here's an example of limits making things more interesting: "Write a short story" vs "Use these five short story titles in a new short story" - which short story would you rather read? Now apply this to travel. You can go see some part of Europe you've never been to, or you can find other experiences you're also missing out on that are better aligned with your ethics.

Buses have motors, so we scheduled some time to bike out to the coast instead. It took more time and energy, but it was a lot more fun than doing a weekend trip and taking a bus to the coast would have been.

Turns out there are loads of interesting people in this world who literally never leave their home town and yet manage to have interesting and fulfiling lives.

Another thing that has made this easier for me is doing it with my partner. We make our own little microsociety in which it's perfectly normal not to travel by motor vehicle. So maybe you can find some folks you know who don't fly at all, and use them as role models.
posted by aniola at 9:30 AM on September 21, 2019 [17 favorites]

I agree with Ananci: travel, learn about the world, take the energy you have gained from relaxing and direct it towards governments and large corporations or joining an organization that works on environmental issues. I think that individual action often works in the interest of the big businesses that are actually doing the damage, because it’s tiring and it doesn’t really hurt them. Working collectively with others to get regulations passed might harder, because it does not seem so personal and pure, but I think that is the way to get real change.
posted by velebita at 9:33 AM on September 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

I don’t really understand how people rationalize that it’s big companies that do the most harm, so we are powerless. Will they keep flying planes with no one on them? Do they make gasoline if we aren’t buying? Sure, each of us are small effects in the larger scheme of things, but we can only exercise the power we have. Sometimes that is boycotts, sometimes lobbying for regulation, but to say we can’t and letting ourselves off the hook makes no sense to me.

That said, I love the framing praemunire uses above. We have a certain amount of resilience and strength and we have to choose how we use it. I was feeling a lot of climate guilt last year due to visiting family on the other side of the world, so I took my next long distance work trip by rail in the US. This year, I’m skipping long distance conference travel entirely. Big impact, big sacrifice. We are doing a lot of little things, but we try to weigh the impact versus the loss. Straws? Questionable impact but also little loss to me, so I don’t spend much time thinking about it. Car commuting? I much prefer riding my bike, big impact, little loss, so I spend time and money making sure that works for me. Does putting solar on our roof make sense? Maybe not financially, but it’s a big impact with a cost we are willing to bear.So the question is, how much impact is not flying versus the loss of not seeing those things in Europe. I know my answer, but you need to find yours.
posted by advicepig at 9:50 AM on September 21, 2019 [35 favorites]

I love to travel but did not fly for many years due to cost. Now that I can afford it, I am weighing this same question.

I've decided I really want to travel internationally every 2-3 years, and am using this as a motivation to change my other transportation habits. I've moved to a place where I can take public transportation to work, and I avoid flying to visit family, even if this means a 14-hour drive. (It turns out I love road trips.)

There's no right solution, but I feel like I'm living in a way that considers the externalized costs of transportation alongside personal costs of money and time.

One thing to consider: not all air travel is equal. It sounds like flying to these places now will have much less impact than visiting them when you're back in your home country.
posted by toastedcheese at 9:54 AM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Why not rail travel? I loved train travel while in Europe. I'd book a train the went overnight so I could sleep/save on hotel. I do have a very good ability to sleep on trains - ymmv
posted by PistachioRoux at 10:02 AM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think you have to figure out where you draw the line. Your individual actions do matter. The reason you're discomfited isn't because you're wrong about that, it's because your beliefs are in conflict with your desires.

The fact is that none of us can live in a way that is completely consistent with our ethics. There are many choices we can make to live better - but we have limited power and limited resilience.

My own opinion is that while individual lifestyle changes do matter, taking action to address systemic issues matters more. And on the individual level, general habits matter more than one-time events. I personally wouldn't feel that guilty about taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a location I've always wanted to visit, because that's such a small drop in the bucket. If I traveled a lot, that calculus would probably change, and I would think about cutting back on air travel.

We have to prioritize to survive. You need to figure out what your line is. But I think that it would not be unreasonable/bad for a person who is concerned about the environment to fly rarely, while they are prioritizing actions like political advocacy/engagement, which is (hopefully) more meaningful/impactful in the long run.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:08 AM on September 21, 2019 [14 favorites]

Struggling with the same issue, so far I'm resting heavily on the idea that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Make your list of air trips. Then cut...some. Like, maybe drop every other one. Or limit yourself to the top 2. (Some people find it easier to choose the best, some find it easier to discard the least good. Pick the strategy that's best for you.)

And then, this is important, go nuts on the trips you choose. Take all the money you would have spent on the dropped trips, and stay in beautiful places, get the best seats, stay an extra day, tip heavily, eat wonderful food, and spoil yourself (and the local economy in the process!) Trade many trips for a few jewels. The idea here is not martyrdom, the idea is to make choices that you enjoy while causing the least amount of harm.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 10:11 AM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

The impression I get of many Tourists I see in Europe (particularly American tourists) is that they only have X days of holiday leave and they are determined to see ALL THE THINGS in that time. They are rushing from one bucket list place to another, just to tick things off their list.

So my advice is to compromise, do half the travel flights you were planning and give yourself more time to relax and take things in at your leisure. A vacation is supposed to be a time for relaxing.
posted by Lanark at 10:12 AM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

It's a simple fact: if we don't as a society decide to restrict things like this, your own personal behavior makes no difference whatsoever. Literally totally negligible.

What does help is axtivism, lobbying, talking to people about it. I'm not suggesting you buy a Hummer and a lamb farm but individual actions are not going to save us.

Also important to note is that industry has actually funded pseudo green ideals of individual sacrifice to deflect attention from the fact that they are the cause of the problem.

So take your flight but leverage your privelage.
posted by sully75 at 10:21 AM on September 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

I think of this as a both/and; air travel has terrible impacts, AND also citizens need to focus their most urgent energies in the direction of corporate/national impacts. Which isn’t saying “ah, the problem is corporate level, so just relax and buy SUVs” it’s saying “the problem is corporate/national level, so we need to focus the majority of our energy on either becoming or actively supporting people who are lobbying, developing new energy forms, and chaining themselves to pipeline sites.”

It’s verging-on-impossible to lead a no-evildoing life inside an evil system. For instance, almost every part of this communication we’re having is tainted — our devices were probably constructed with conflict minerals, partly assembled by slaves, and our words are being transmitted using carbon-emitting energy processes. Many of us are probably wearing clothes that have similar issues (slave labor, earth-destroying manufacturing). Etc, etc. It’s commendable to make personal choices to improve our impacts on the system, but I think we have been taught by corporate forces to focus our energies there (a la the “crying indian” ad) — because most of us put our energies into our transportation/diet/lightbulbs/paper straws and then have little left over afterwards for smashing the (carbon-emission-enabling) state.

Personally, I try to make more-ethical choices (including reducing travel), and am also trying to re-educate myself to put collective action as my first priority. If I were in your shoes, I’d be
—thinking about how much vitality I’d get from each potential air trip
—choosing to take just the trips that would give me the most life vitality
—“carbon offsetting” the trips both by donating to climate justice organizations AND by consciously putting the vitality I got from the trips towards climate organizing.

There’s no perfect answer to life in a destructive system.
posted by hungrytiger at 10:41 AM on September 21, 2019 [10 favorites]

What about a 1 year moratorium and then re-evaluate? Anthropologist Hannah Knox wrote a very thoughtful essay about forgoing air travel for a year, and then an essay about how that is going so far, that has made me reconsider my industry's addiction to fossil fuel transportation (and academia/higher education is for sure an industry).
For not flying is far from a simple act but entails all kinds of questions about one’s ethical commitments – as a scholar, as a citizen, and for me as a sister, daughter, friend and mother. A personal decision not to fly is particularly difficult because of the effects it has on others I care about. My sister and her family currently live in Berlin and my brother has just moved to Turin. These are reachable by train, but train travel across Europe is expensive for a family of five, and time consuming too.

There are of course question-marks over the difference it will even make not to fly, counted in terms of carbon emissions. One journey by train may end up not making that much difference in terms of contribution to global warming. But committing to travelling by train rather than on a plane is a difference that will make a difference in other ways that will likely be more significant than the difference made to global CO2 levels. For not flying will demand an attention to the relationship between work and family, a reconsideration of what travel is, how time is spent and with whom.... One reason why I have put a limit of December 2020 on this decision is in recognition of how potentially fraught this decision is. Nonetheless it seems clear that the alternative is just as fraught as well if for other reasons and at a different scale
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:09 AM on September 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

Also, I have bought carbon offsets for family travel -- I used Native Energy in the past, they were not updating their projects for a while but seem to be active again.

I agree with folks who say it is worth trying and with the folks who are saying don't mire yourself in guilt. But try. I am like you, I want to think about what I am doing. Are there other possibilities?

There is no purity of unblemished living, there is no 100% ethical consumerism under 21st century capitalism (see the post on the Blue about healing crystals!) But for me, I still need to think about how things could be otherwise and act accordingly. Do I have to make my students drive in for class twice a week? Do I need to eat this burger or could I eat something with fewer ripple effects today? I am definitely not a zero-waste champion, though I admire the mission. I still go get boba tea and buy sports drinks, but I can pack straws I rinsed out from previous drinks (wait, are there reusable straws big enough for boba?) in my bag and use the rinsed out juice bottle to bring homemade iced tea to work. Is this piece of plastic truly disposable? I am even that person who will bring the little plastic party cups home (from someone else's event) and rinse them out to use for a picnic lunch in the future.

I want to be mindful, but I also know that my capacity for mindfulness and behavior change is not limitless. Sometimes I teach until 9pm and I drive home and get McDonalds.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Individual actions absolutely do matter, and plane travel is one of the biggest impacts most people have on the climate in a year. Europe is great for train travel. If you do fly, I think carbon offsets are worth it. I use Cool Effect. By 2021 many airlines will also have to buy offsets themselves, but it will still be worth avoiding flights whenever possible until alternatives like electric planes are widespread.
posted by pinochiette at 11:42 AM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

One thing to keep in mind is that air travel per se is not that bad. For example, an air trip uses less fuel than driving the same distance unless you have at least three people sharing your car at a time. What makes air travel so carbon intensive is distance, which can be hundreds or thousands of miles. The important thing is that the choice to move a human body thousands of miles uses lots of fuel. The mode of travel is of lesser importance. (Yes, I know high-speed rail can be relatively efficient, but it isn't going to get you to Europe or Japan, or even New York to Seattle, for that matter.)
posted by JackFlash at 11:43 AM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

I looked into carbon offsets a while ago, but many research studies have found they are not well regulated and often highly ineffective.

Plan A: Is there a carbon offset program that claims to have some impact in your current location? Go take a look that they’re doing what they claim to be doing, and if they are, give them your carbon offset money. “Often highly ineffective” - will further research find a specific program that is effective, or at least more effective than most? Do you have local friends, or a local business, who want to get solar panels but can’t afford the upfront cost? Or want or need money for a local project? Give them your offset money each time you fly.

Plan B: If there’s no carbon offset plan or workaround you feel comfortable giving to, double the offset cost and give directly to or Extinction Rebellion each time you fly, in hopes that their actions will create a tipping point that makes the question of individual offsets moot. Each time you give, review the news on carbon offsets again to see if you should go back to plan A.

Plan C: Invite your friends to your place, build a fire out of small-denomination bills in your local currency, and tell them you’re doing it to give yourself motivation to work harder on Plans A and B.
posted by mistersix at 12:24 PM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

A few years ago I made a detailed accounting of the carbon impact of my family, which had 3 members at the time. I tracked gasoline, home heating, electricity, food. After a few months we flew from the Northeast to Utah for a wedding. That single flight (with three people) led to more carbon emissions than the prior three months. It was shocking, a wake up call.

Some people argue that we shouldn't bother making changes yet. It's all up to the corporations and governments. Until they get their act together, we should keep eating red meat, flying, etc.

But that attitude ignores the fact that CO2 emissions stay in the atmosphere for 100 years. The flight you take to Aruba will keep warming the earth until 2118. Every pound of carbon we can keep out of the atmosphere today will be one pound less for the next 100 years.

In addition, your actions have a social impact. Flying is currently accepted as a normal part of life for people who can afford it. However, that is changing. More and more people are realizing the negative impact of flying. If your friends, family, and work associates see that you are limiting your flying, they will be more likely to do the same sooner rather than later.

You want to see the world, and I understand that and can relate to it. But remember that you have a luxury of making a choice about this. In 50 years, people won't have that choice, either because the carbon restrictions will prohibit flying for leisure, or because the things and places you're wanting to visit won't exist anymore.

For the sake of all those future people, we need to start living in that future ourselves, today.

I will still fly, reluctantly, for family and as work requires. But when I have a say, I won't fly for leisure anymore.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 12:25 PM on September 21, 2019 [16 favorites]

This is a difficult one. Of course it makes a difference if private consumers fly or not. Airlines cancel routes or number of flights on a route if they can’t fill them. And while some connections are predominantly used by business travellers the majority of flights also contains a good chunk of private travellers.

But as the availability of high volume and reliable internet connections has increased it has become much more feasible to use Skype meetings and such to replace a lot of travel. My employer expects us to use Skype for all internal meetings if at all possible, it doesn’t just save travel costs but also improves employee wellbeing because business travel tends to come at the expense of sleep and/or personal relationships.

Of course all of that is irrelevant if we’re doing a proposal....last week, one of my partners flew from Zurich to LA on Tuesday to meet with a potential client, the location would clearly be looked after by our local office eventually. He flew back Wednesday night. He was on the ground something like 24 hrs and flew something like 11k miles for the privilege. That is insane. And it is debatable how much of a difference this will make but our competitors also sent their proposal teams to this location and you can’t afford to seem less keen.

The real problem seems to me that, with the decreasing cost of air travel, expectations of what is reasonable have changed. In the past, if you moved more than half a day’s drive away your family didn’t expect to see you more than once every blue moon. And before budget airlines nobody considered air travel for long weekends be it as city breaks or to visit friends, at least nobody thought of it as something you do regularly.

Cheaper fares have also increased pressure on businesses wrt in person meetings. At a time when the alternative was a long distance phone call and faxes there may have been something in making sure you meet your key contacts regularly but that is no longer the case. But now there there are people who commute by plane. Several partners I’ve worked with on large international accounts ‘live’ in one country but work in another. That’s at least two flights per week, unless you live in rural Scotland at which point it is four. That guy now works in the UK again but in London, his wife and kids are still in Scotland.

And nobody expected people to cover such large geographical areas as part of a day to day job. I travel 60 miles in every direction for client work. That is a lot in densely populated Europe, where you’re never far from the next town. I live in a country with excellent public transport. But I still drive when the time spent/number of changes means that driving is much faster/I can’t work on the train. Also, long hrs, I am not sacrificing any more of my own time.

So it seems to me that we’re all have to challenge what we consider normal. What we need vs what we want vs what makes sense may be in conflict and we face conflicting demands - both at work and in our personal choices. None of us are perfect or able to control all the variables but we can at least make conscious decisions.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:35 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Individuals totally matter. Corporations need individuals to buy their stuff. NZ animal farmers are getting VERY angry at spreading veganism, lots of little actions changing big Ag.
posted by unearthed at 12:37 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I very rarely fly now. I’m in the UK and I don’t fly within the country. The rare times I travel within Europe I get the train - I enjoy travelling by train (whereas flying is a chore). And with a train I start relaxing when I get on it; with a plane it’s only once I reach my destination. I’ve taken one short (return) flight in the past eight or so years.

But I usually have the time to allow for train travel and I can afford the (often) greater cost. And I don’t have much desire to travel further afield. So it’s an easier choice than it would otherwise be. I’d love visit the US again - and probably will one day - but it just seems a ridiculous thing to do, to me, for me, unfortunately.
posted by fabius at 12:41 PM on September 21, 2019

I think of air travel as possibly my largest contribution to a non-sustainable civilization.

That fact is included in all my calculations about when and if to fly. It doesn’t mean I won’t get on a plane, it just means that I’m thoughtful about it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is something I’ve been struggling with for a few years now. I live in a different hemisphere from my family, 8400 miles away. I can afford to fly every year and take a long holiday. But I also am keenly conscious of our carbon footprint, so now we have dropped to travelling every other year. My parents are in their 90’s, they don’t really work well with skype, and miss holding their children. It’s breaking my heart. My life is here with my partner, I can’t move near them. But they’re aging so quickly now. I know we’re doing the right thing, we won’t go back to yearly travel, but I cannot pretend the cost of not spending time with them is negligible. I figure I’ll see them maybe 2 or 3 times more before they are dead. This is extraordinarily painful.
posted by lemon_icing at 2:19 PM on September 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

I buy carbon offsets. There are many reputable companies nowadays running great programs. You can't just buy the first one you find, but you can find lots of good ones and they are not that expensive. Of course, I'm in Australia, and going anywhere, even inside the country, basically requires flying.
posted by smoke at 5:41 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Right, neglected to include: we’ve been buying offsets for as it has been possible. It’s getting into a situation where we have buy offsets that makes me so uncomfortable.
posted by lemon_icing at 6:22 PM on September 21, 2019

Well, I have two grandparents left, and they're not on the same landmass. Barring my sprouting an ability to swim across the Pacific, I'm flying. And my parents live across the country: am I going to drive through red state america and risk being milked by every trooper along the way? oh hell no.

We do what we can, right? I pay up the schnozz to live close to work. I don't own a private car. For many, that's unbelievable privilege. For me, it's just how I think life should be.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:52 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can reframe the question: most people in the world do not take flights at all (probably less than 20% of the world's population have ever been on a plane, though the expansion of air travel means that percentage is likely growing). The proportion of the world who take at least one flight a year is even smaller. Even in the USA, where there are loads of domestic flights and it's pretty normal to fly, only about half the population fly in a year. In the UK 15% of the population account for 70% of flights in a year, and again more than half the population don't take a flight in a year.

Not taking flights is normal. If you think taking flights is normal, that's basically because you are in a very rich and privileged section of the world's population.

Note: I have flown on holiday this year, so this isn't a statement of moral superiority.
posted by Vortisaur at 3:51 AM on September 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

I try to be careful about other things in my life, but I have no plans currently to curtail our air travel. We fly 4 to 6 times a year, to visit family or for vacations, and I can't see stopping that. We live far from our families, and are unwilling to move closer. We like to see far-awayy places; travel is good for the soul.

Fewer people traveling, including and especially traveling internationally -- and if you're down on air travel, this really means you don't want to see Americans in Europe or Asia -- will mean a net increase in blinkered thinking about other people and other nations. That can't be good.
posted by uberchet at 5:51 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

One more point to consider:

There's a common view about climate change that we have two possible futures: a future where we stop climate change, and a future where we don't. There's success and failure, and success can only come from government and corporate action. Individual action can't get us there.

In fact, there aren't two possible outcomes. We have climate change and we will have climate change. The question is how bad it will be. Sure, 1.5 degrees C is a target, and it's good to have a target. But it's not going to be exactly that. It's going to be something more or something less, and the impacts will be something more or something less. The extinctions and the sea level rise will be something more or something less.

Every ton of carbon we put into the atmosphere pushes things a little bit further in one direction. Every ton we keep out pulls us back a little bit. We want the big victories, of course, but we also want the little ones too. They all have an impact on where we end up on that range.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:34 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Union of Concerned Scientists produced a lower-carbon how-to travel guide in 2008. It recommends things like choose an economy seat over first class, nonstop if possible, "choose the plane with the smallest average carbon footprint per seat, avoid airports with long delays" etc.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:54 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've always told myself that you must do whatever you can, everyone's small gestures count. I don't have a car, or kids, so the only large thing I can do is look at the flights I make to visit family - maybe 4 short-haul returns a year - and have been thinking I must switch those to train journeys, even though they cost twice as much and if I do that I quite likely won't be able to afford to go on holiday next year. But still, I think, we all have a role to play.

And then I read that 1% of flyers in England are responsible for 20% of overseas flights. And I think of how my friends who fly constantly for business could cut 4 short-haul flights from their schedule just by declining one meeting every three months, at zero personal hardship to themselves.

And then I start to waver back towards EasyJet.

Anybody know how best to get involved in lobbying to reduce the price of train tickets in the UK? (Not rhetorical, I'd love to know, though it's probably hard to answer at this particular moment since we don't even know if we'll all just be living in bunkers and eating tree bark for survival in 3 months' time).
posted by penguin pie at 9:12 AM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I live in Houston. I can fly nonstop almost anywhere, and do, for my own sanity & convenience, but it's good to realize it's better for the carbon footprint, too.
choose the plane with the smallest average carbon footprint per seat, avoid airports with long delays
This sounds like a bizarre bit of guidance. I mean, you're trying to get from point A to point B, so you're going to be a prisoner of whatever airports and airlines service those locations, and actual plane models are swapped out all the time with no notice or guarantee to the travelers.

The notion of switching to rail is also something that only works if you live in a place where rail is useful. To a first approximation, in the US that's only the east coast. I wish that weren't true, but it's where we are.

For example, trying to take a train to visit my family would be hilariously impractical. I just checked; Amtrak will sell me a ticket, but it takes 21h 20m when you can *drive* there in about 1/3 that time.

Taking a train to Florida, to visit my wife's family, is even more hilarious. Amtrak quotes 3 days. The (direct!) Southwest flight is about an hour and a half, if memory serves.

So yeah, still flying. OTOH, we have no kids and only have one car, so there's that.
posted by uberchet at 10:21 AM on September 25, 2019

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