Yesterday was 466 days since returning to the UK, or in other words, 66 weeks and 4 days which has a nice symmetry to it. Looking back we feel very lucky, being able to afford to go travelling, particularly the expensive sea routes, and avoiding any potential visa issues crossing borders meant…

We travelled almost for one year and did not have to fly

This is surprising for many people, either they didn’t think it was possible or they found it baffling why we would ever not fly given that it’s quicker and more affordable in many cases. Neither of us spoke much about the enivronmental impact of travelling while away as it’s a difficult subject for many people. When it did come up in conversation, some people didn’t really grasp the concept, a few minutes later suggesting a cheap flight to this amazing non-touristy place we hadn’t been to yet. Or they told us there’s nothing individuals can do about it so why bother trying not to fly?

We chose not to fly, and continue to choose not to fly, because it’s damaging to the environment. I hope one day this will change. Many things contribute to climate change but flying internationally, and domestically, has a larger impact than many other aspects of peoples’ lives. Given the rapid growth in the number of flights and in turn the expansion of airports, combined with the lack of information about the environmental effects (more so from frequent-flyers), the negative impacts will continue to grow until the effects are potentially irreversible.

I left an air quality app on my phone since travelling and Sheffield has had days as bad as China in recent months. Most people don’t think it’s necessary in the UK to need to wear masks but that will change soon if nothing is done quickly to protect our environment. Things need to change and ultimately can only be changed by those in high-up positions, governments and companies need to be striving for more sustainable and renewable means in every aspect of life.

Individuals do make a difference

It’s hard to feel like the world isn’t collapsing and disentegrating around us, because the truth is it is, and the effects of climate change are only going get worse. However, as individuals we can make a difference, specifically in what and how much we consume. Simply by choosing a train over a plane, the bus over a car, second-hand clothes over new clothes, a meat-free sandwich at lunch, taking shorter showers, etc, shows others that there are alternative options and attitudes to living. Importantly, it shows the companies selling these products that people prefer the environmentally friendly option. Individual actions on a large scale can reduce the profits of environmentally damaging companies, calling on those in the high-up positions driven by money to change their attitudes too.

Enjoy the longer journey watching the scenery pass by, savour the new found flavours and tastes in food, and enjoy walking or cycling in cleaner air, all to help fellow humans, animals, and the environment.

Need more convincing?

If you’re still with me, try calculating your carbon footprint. This made me give up flying in May 2016. In the previous year I had taken four international return flights and considered myself an environmentally friendly person. One international flight produced more carbon than all the other things in my life combined. Check out this list of some eco-friendly tips here.

No one can change their habits of a lifetime over night and the expectation is not for everyone to become perfect eco-warriors. In similar words to someone attempting to be more sustainable:

We don’t need a handful of people doing it perfectly.
We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.

PS: Have your say here against the Heathrow expansion.

8 thoughts on “Food for thought

  1. Sorry, Rosanna, remembered only just now to read it properly.
    To show the pollution levels in Sheffield and comparing it to China is quite an eye opener.
    It is so encouraging to read again and again that if everyone thinks a little bit more about the choices they make…it could make a real difference!
    Thank you for taking a positive position in trying to reach more people!

  2. Sorry, I’m flying to Ross’s wedding too, but this will be the first time I’ve flown since I went to visit Sue in Australia about 9 years ago. Am I forgiven?!!

    1. Nothing to forgive Granny! It’s not about stopping everyone from flying but informing those who fly often the impact they’re making and to cut down (it is estimated 70% of flights are taken by 15% of flyers), to not needlessly fly (to nearby Europe, domestically, etc) and to fly for a worthwhile reason (not to go shopping in New York, etc).

      Have a lovely time at the wedding!

  3. It seems to me that we don’t pay the true cost of travel by car or plane. And we don’t pay the true cost of goods that are transported from across the globe. Hopefully, social pressure will provide one of the regulatory mechanisms needed to control our behaviour instead. Your message is a welcome part of that.

    1. Thank you Nigel, and yes you’re perfectly right. It’s travel in general not just planes, cars do a lot of damage as well and of course, freight too much more so. Actually one of the reasons for the high pollution levels in Sheffield is the old diesel pacer trains run by Northern rail. Social pressure will hopefully help to persuade these companies and others to change to their ways, else the government should somehow step in to regulate things before it’s all too late.

    1. Don’t have to do things perfectly, knowing you’re flying for a worthwhile/thought out reason is better than just doing it without knowing the consequences! It’s a little hard to get a train to Canada too :p

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