This time of the year people are starting to plan their summer holidays again. Yet, flying has been under a lot of attention the last couple of years. It’s a way of travelling that is so environmentally destructive, it’s insane. Flying is very harmful in the climate change crisis, but there’s one aspect of it that makes it a hard subject: it’s non-replaceable. For all the transportation means, there are sustainable alternatives. We have electric cars, busses and trains. We don’t have electrical planes. That’s why I swore off the plane for now. It’s just not sustainable. How I live without flying? Here’s my approach.
The CO2 emitted by planes are immense and I don’t think most people realize that. One holiday to Bali equals an entire year of driving your car and a Boeing 747 emits just as much particulate matter as a million trucks (Source). And as I said, flying can’t be sustainable. A lot of companies want you to buy of your guilt by paying a small amount of money to plant trees. This seems wonderful, but it is not the solution. A lot of times it is a scam, or you pay way too little to have enough trees planted. And then still if you would, you can’t undo the carbon you have emitted.
Make a change
Hopefully you, just like me, want to be part of the solution when it comes to the climate crisis, not a contributor. In our society it is very normal to fly every year and not think twice about it. That’s why at first it might seem hard to ditch the plane. I’ve come to learn that it has a lot to do with mindset and here is the guide on how I ditch the plane. Maybe it can help you too.
When I flew, it was only for holidays. This guide applies to only that part of flying, holidays. I do not have experience in flying for work or to see family on the other side of the world. In that case, I can imagine it being very hard or even impossible to ditch the plane. Flying for work is something you have to do. Flying to the other side of the world for a holiday is a choice. That’s why today I am talking about that choice and how you can make different ones.
Step 1: Speak up
In this sense, not flying is just like being on a diet. If people see you eating junk food anyway, they’ll say something about it. That for me really helped, with flying. Just like with a diet, people will support you and understand if you refuse things. If you turn down that cake, they’ll think: she wants to get healthier. If you mention not flying, they’ll think: she wants to live sustainable. In my case pronouncing my concerns and telling people I did not want to fly any longer helped them understand it. My dad and I used to always go on a holiday by plane and by telling him I did want to go on holiday but not by plane, he understood. From that point on people know your values and you can move on.
Step 2: Do I really want this?
This might be just my view on the matter, but I feel like a lot of people want to see the world because it’s ‘normal’. Especially at my age it’s a thing. After you graduate, you make a trip around the world, that’s what everybody does. Just because something is a trend, does not mean you have to do it. At step 2 you really have to ask yourself: Do I really want this? I know people who go on holidays just because that’s what all people seem to do. They don’t really think whether they enjoy it themselves. If you have kids, flying to Turkey for three weeks of holiday can be more stressful than staying at home and doing fun things there. Think about your own needs. For a lot of people, holidays are about being free from work as well, this is something you can experience at home too. And bear in mind, staying at home gives you more time since you don’t have to travel and pack your stuff. If it’s still something you want, then go on to the next step.
Step 3: Relocate your destination according to your goals
If I think about the holidays my dad and I took, it was just for the weather. It did not really matter which country we went to, as long as it was warm. We used to fly all the way to Egypt just to sit by the pool, enjoy good food and be in the sun. I did not see much of Egypt back then, because it did not really matter to us, it was about the good weather. I am not saying these holidays were not fun, I had the time of my life! But, I think we should reconsider our choices. In our own country we have a warm summer as well, why not spend it there and go to the pool and restaurants every day? And if you don’t like to stay in your home town, you can even go to another city in the same country. The past years we went to the Dutch islands where I had an amazing time.
I can imagine you might be scared that the weather at for instance the Dutch islands won’t be as good as in Egypt. Still then there are options. Southern France for instance, or Spain (for Dutch people at least). If you want to be out of your country, this is an option. If you relocate your holiday to somewhere closer, you can go there but still ditch the plane. Travelling by train or car.
Step 4: Choose alternative transportation
If you decide you want to travel far per se (which is fine, I do it as well!), you can still choose different transportation methods. Let’s say you really want to see China, or Africa. Most of the time people only consider the plane with these distances. They think it’s the only way. But it’s really not. You can travel anywhere by train or car. Last year I went to Albufeira by train and people were really surprised that it was even possible to go there by train. And from The Netherlands to Albufeira is not even that far. Imagine the possibilities! So even if you want to travel far per se, you don’t have to use the plane. The website I use to plan train rides with is www.seat61.com. This website literally has every destination of the world on it and so from wherever you are, you can travel.
The key here is to see the traveling as part of the holiday. A lot of people see the plane as a necessary evil to get to their destination. But you are skipping all that beauty and me-time along the way! I felt like my adventure began as soon as I walked out my front-door. It’s a matter of mindset, really. I spend my train ride enjoying the view (seeing how the landscape changes along the way), reading books, making puzzles, watching movies and talking to fellow travelers even! It’s an experience itself and train routes can really be beautiful, like the Glacier Express in Switzerland.
Step 5: Save for a flight (I do not recommend this, but it is an option)
If you do choose to fly after all (I don’t know your personal situation, so maybe this is a need for you), then there is one option to sort of make it sustainable. That is to save for it. As you might have read in my other blogposts, I try to live within the earth’s capacity. You can calculate this and see how many we’d need if everybody lived like you. If you have a score of 1 earth or lower you are living sustainable. Now, let’s say you live within the earth’s boundaries and each year you have a score of 0.7 earth, then you have 0.3 of earth’s left. Then you can calculate how much earth that one trip takes you and save for it. Here’s an example, if you for instance really, really want to fly to New Zealand from The Netherlands.
According to Google a flight from Amsterdam to Wellington is 18.554 kilometers. And since you also need to go back, this will be a total of 37.108 kilometers. According to the tool I use to calculate whether I live eco-positive, this flight alone gives you a score of 1.9 earths (Source). If you live within the earth’s capacity with a score of 0.7 each year like mentioned above, then you need to save about 6/7 years of earth for this flight (1.9/0.3= 6.33). Yet, this is only possible if you live within the earth’s capacity for a long time.
As I said, I do not recommend it because if you live below the earth’s capacity the lower the better, but it is an option. At last I want to share Flight Free 2020 with you. For if you, just like me, want to ditch the plane.
A few weeks ago I signed up for Flight Free 2020. It’s a pledge you can sign, to do something about climate change. To not feel alone in this battle (because you surely aren’t!), you can sign the pledge and unite. On the website you can also read stories from others and maybe get some inspiration. You don’t have to be perfect to sign up, you just have to have the intention to not fly. Nobody is perfect, but we can all try. Dutch people can sign up here, but the initiative is global so you can just search for it on Ecosia and sign up.
Do you ditch the plane already?