Hands up if you would like to stop global warming/reduce your carbon footprint.
Hands up if you have flown in the last 12 months.
I would imagine the majority of people have raised their hands (probably not literally) to both of those. If only the first, good for you!
Let me explain.
My friend recently watched the ‘Storyville: The Age of Stupid’ documentary and told me that flying once, is enough to exceed our annual carbon footprint allowance (if we want to meet CO2 emission targets).
I would like to think of myself as someone that cares about the environment. I’m also someone that caught over 20 flights in 2018 (mostly for work). Now, that puts me in a very embarrassing position. However, it also puts me in a position to learn more and do better. So I want to explore how true this is, and find out what I can do to improve.
The carbon footprint of flights
I decided to start with the obvious. All flights are not created equal. I headed over to the Carbon Footprint Calculator to find out what each flight may produce in carbon emissions.
Here are my findings:
(All flights are return flights from London)
- Paris = 0.06 tonnes
- New York = 0.96 tonnes
- Nairobi = 1.18 tonnes
- Rio de Janeiro = 1.60 tonnes
- Hong Kong = 1.66 tonnes
- Sydney = 2.93 tonnes
This made me curious. How does all my flights for last year stack up? Let’s find out:
(France 0.16 + Scotland 0.06 + Malta 0.33 + France 0.15 + Italy 0.27 + Croatia 0.25 + Dominican Republic 0.58 + France 0.55 + Switzerland 0.08 + Sweden 0.17 + Morocco (Via France) 0.46)
I worked out the round-about impact of all my trips and got the end figure of 3.06 tonnes of CO2. We’ll come back to that later.
This suggests that a flight to Sydney, Australia produces the same amount of carbon emissions as almost 50 flights to Paris. So lets put that into context a little.
The carbon footprint of cars
The average car mileage in Britain 2017 was just over 7,134 miles which has a carbon footprint of 2.11 tonnes (based on an average sized petrol car) or 2 flights to New York and 3 flights to Paris in air-flight equivalence.
Now lets compare.
London to France by car is about 580 miles (return journey) which in an average sized petrol car is 0.17 tonnes.
Flying to Paris is 0.06 tonnes and yet driving is 0.17 tonnes?
The way it calculates the carbon footprint of a flight is to take into account how much space on the flight you occupy in order to know which percentage is attributed to each person (so seating class matters in this sense as well).
If, like me, you don’t come across tonnes of CO2 emissions on a day to day basis you probably have no context for these calculations…
Fam, I got you!
What does this mean?
I did a quick search and found out that the average for carbon emissions per person by country are:
- USA – 16.5 tonnes
- China – 7.5 tonnes
- UK – 6.5 tonnes
- Qatar – 54.4 tonnes
- Australia – 15.4 tonnes
- Kenya – 0.3 tonnes
- France – 4.6 tonnes
- Brazil – 2.6 tonnes
- World Average 2014 – 5 tonnes
- Target 2020 – 4.1 tonnes
- Target 2050 – 1.5 tonnes
This means my flights alone were almost half the average per person for the UK and almost two thirds of the worldwide average.
I definitely need to do something about this: Fortunately for me my next trip is a euro-trip by camper van. No electricity, controlled water use etc. Anyway, lets continue.
What is the take away?
A Science Magazine article listed the top 3 ways to reduce your carbon footprint (aside from having less children) as:
- Turning vegetarian
- Foregoing air travel
- Ditching your car
It’s worth noting here that reducing your car usage, going from vegetarian to vegan (or reducing your meat) and reducing air travel are still great and moderately effective ways of reducing your carbon footprint.
It’s not always possible to forego air travel. But reducing is definitely a good option. For example it was much cheaper to fly home from Scotland instead of taking the train. However, knowing what I know now I perhaps would have paid the extra and had a cleaner conscience about my environmental impact.
Hopefully this has given you a little insight and context for the environmental impact travel has on the environment. It’s definitely given me a lot to think about. Perhaps 2020 will see me travelling the world by boat.
I know this is a little different to the usual but that’s what we do here. Shake things up. There’s probably tonnes [wink] of mistakes in this, or scientific inaccuracies so please, by all means get in touch and educate me because this is far from a subject I know a lot about.
Have a great day and catch you next week!
Love, Kallum <3