How do you go deep green with a heavy airline habit? That was my question as I dove into week 4 of my quest to reexamine my lifestyle habits and possibly shed a bit of green guilt. Helping me along in my quest is the TreeHugger book by Graham Hill and Meaghan O'Neill Ready, Set, Green. But the answer to my question was you can't...go deep green, that is, if you are going to continue to fly.
Cold turkey car cutting
Obviously, as the book states, most of us want to find efficient transport "without all the global warming baggage." And for day-to-day living, it seems to work best for big-city urban dwellers. In major cities such as mine, inner city public transport is plentiful and walking is generally pleasurable. Since giving up our car two years ago, our family of four has never looked back - school, work and most errands are all accomplished by streetcar, bus, and bikes. In fact going cold turkey with no car was much more effective than our former attempts to wean ourselves - a certain percentage of car dependence is really just psychological. Once you don't have a car, you get increasingly creative about doing what you need to without one. A lightweight bike trailer and a subscription to a car-sharing service are excellent helping tools. (Car sharing is growing, especially in places such as Britain, where "petrol" prices are about $9 a gallon!) Plus the pleasure of knowing your community by slowing down to walk and bike in it (instead of just drive past it) is immeasurable. However, the global warming buck seems to stop right at the place where we try to step past our normal routines for any kind of business or pleasure travel.We reckon we make three international plane trips each year, and that's just an average. It's enough greenhouse gas emissions to completely embarass any attempts we make to calculate, much less control, our carbon footprint.
Buying carbon offset credits seems to be the only way to at all mitigate all those frequent flying miles, and it's a pretty paltry mitigation. But Clear Air Cool Planet has a good list of reputable offset companies.
While I admire individuals that have eschewed air travel, I can't quite get there yet. We have agreed inter-family that Easter and other major holidays we will try train travel to domestic locations, but for the big summer trip seeing relatives on the other side of the ocean is still a top priority only available by flight. With the high cost of fuel, perhaps more energy efficient planes and biofuel flights will come into service faster. We can only hope.