As the world wakes up to the environmental impacts of jet-setting, Mikaela Loach shares her journey to going flight free as well as her top tips for others who want to make the change.
For the last six years of my life, I’ve spent every summer taking long-haul flights to far away continents to explore more of this beautiful world. Travel was a huge part of my identity: these trips have changed me so much as a human and brought me so much joy. This was all possible due to a huge amount of privilege I have as a student who is able to save, along with having a financially stable family. Over this same time, I began reducing my carbon footprint at home. I went vegan, boycotted fast fashion, shopped zero waste and used public transport to get around. Somehow, I still didn’t connect the emissions from my flights as a lifestyle choice in the same way as the other areas I’d change. I made excuses to myself that making these other changes in my life made the impact of these flights negligible. I don’t think I really wanted to face the truth.
Greta Thunberg taking a wind powered, uncomfortable boat across the Atlantic Ocean, rather than just jumping on a plane, was what got me first properly considering my travelling habits. I stopped domestic flights home from uni (in Edinburgh) to home (in Surrey). I pledged not to fly to get somewhere in Europe. But I still went on my usual summer trip far away.
It was on this trip that I read a New York Times article – shared by my friend Jo (@treesnpeace) – that got me really thinking. This article drew attention to the antithetical nature of flying to see the beauty of the world, when this action itself causes so much damage. My favourite thing to do is scuba dive. Peacefully observing the incredible marine world is my ultimate happy place. But, year on year as sea temperatures rise, these ecosystems are collapsing. Corals are bleaching and dying. Rising emissions are responsible for this. So, when I became aware of the fact that a domestic flight in the US from New York City to Los Angeles emitted the same amount of emissions as the average American does in a month, I was shocked. How could I reconcile my passion for travel with my desire to see a zero-carbon future? How could I continue my flying habits, if they held some responsibility for killing the beautiful nature I was travelling to see?
Learning that only 10% of people have ever been on a plane helped change my perception of flying from something that is a right to something that is a privilege. This acknowledgment of my privilege has been so key to organising my thoughts around this whole issue.
I’m noticing that in times of climate crisis, uncomfortable sacrifices will need to be made. For so many on the frontline of climate breakdown, the sacrifices being made are far more grave and are no longer a choice. Our carbon footprints in the West are already so high, so committing to not flying for just one year is a huge step we can do as individuals to reduce our overall impact. You don’t have to commit to never flying again but give one year a try.
TIPS FOR PLANNING A FLIGHT FREE LOW IMPACT HOLIDAY
1) Do some research into finding cheap train or bus tickets. You’ll be surprised at the places in Europe that are accessible quite easily by train! There are also sometimes deals you can get – like £25 tickets from Snap Eurostar – or discounts based on your age.
2) If you can, be a little flexible with your dates to give yourself more of a chance of getting cheap deals!
3) Make the journey’s fun! Bring a pack of cards, a good book, a picnic or download some good movies. But, don’t forget to look out the window as a huge benefit of on-land travel is getting to see beautiful landscapes on your journey.
4) Split up the journey by having a little break in a city on the way. This can mean you get 2 little breaks in one!
5) Use public transport to get around when you arrive at your destination to keep your break low impact!
6) Bring all your reusables and loads of snacks to keep your journey’s low waste!
Thinking of going flight free? Discover our alternative ways to travel on your next getaway.
Read Danielle Copperman’s tips and tricks on how to stay sustainable while travelling.
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