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Carbon ConversationsParticipant diaries

Holiday flights – a guilty privilege

By 22nd February 2019No Comments

This is one of the trickiest blogs I’ve had to write because after all the promises and plans I’ve made throughout the Carbon Conversation discussions, it all goes up in smoke – or should I say, carbon dioxide emissions – when I admit to a recent skiing holiday in the Dolomites. I flew from Edinburgh to Innsbruck and I know that flying is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to emissions and climate change. So, what could I do to ease my conscience?

I am privileged to go on these trips abroad and, with this privilege, is potentially a higher carbon footprint. This leaves me feeling uncomfortable. Do I give up all travel by air? Well, it’s certainly a possibility. I have a friend who is afraid of flying and still manages trips by boat or rail. Do I stay in the UK for my holidays? If we had a summer like 2018, perhaps I would be tempted. But here’s the thing, I like travelling. It’s invigorating; great to meet new people; see new sights and have new experiences.

I had heard the expression, ‘carbon offset’ so I thought this might be the answer to my dilemma. Turns out it’s not really the solution: a tree planted today will take 50 – 100 years to absorb enough CO2 to offset the fuel my flight burned. It seems that there is little evidence that planting a tree will compensate for my skiing trip. Hypocrite that I am, I plant a few trees anyway! (I’ve made a list of the organisations I’ve supported below.) I tell myself, I’m trying my best and it does make me feel a bit better. Again, I find consolation in the Carbon Conversation Handbook on Page 94: Understanding the difficulties. ‘People sometimes develop an all or nothing attitude that leads to inaction…’ I am doing something, I tell myself and that’s what matters. The causes listed below make a positive contribution to our planet there is no doubt so…

As I was finishing this post, I came across John Vidal’s article in the Guardian discussing similar dilemmas. He mentioned a number of interesting ideas, coming mainly from those wonderful Scandi neighbours of ours. They included limiting yourself to one pleasure/holiday flight per year or, signing up for a flight free 6 months/year – depending on your commitment to tackling climate change. Another idea is to make your holiday one that supports local community projects in the countries you visit, especially if your flights are long haul.

The carbon journey I’m discovering, is not a straightforward one, but it is worth pursuing. Time and again, throughout our discussions the value of small changes, by individuals are highlighted. It’s good to know too there is a support network in Tayport for me, and you, to discuss these issues with!

My tree-planting project suggestions:



I grew up on a farm in the NE of Scotland so have always had a close affinity to land and growing my own food. As a family we ate only what was in season and preserved fruit and vegetables if there was a glut. I am still passionate about cutting air miles on the food I eat. I’m lucky to live close to the Tayport Community Garden and pop in regularly for advice and produce.

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