Consumer Responsibility – How Environmentalists Fly ‘Green’
I fly in planes – far often more than I would like to admit. Living in Colorado, having family in the Pacific Northwest, and a growing family business in South America – lets just say I know the Denver airport far too well. I do however, experience “Flygskam” a new Swedish term that associates guilt and embarrassment when taking a flight because you know its bad for the environment.
Sometimes it is hard to wrap our heads around just HOW much carbon emissions planes emit, how buying cheap tickets contribute to the problem, and what effects flying cross-continental really has on our planet. For one reason, it simple isn’t tangible. We cant see the emissions, we aren’t directly affected by it, so why should we care? It should be the airlines responsibility to be accountable for those emissions, after all the pollution is from their planes, right?
Oftentimes we associate the waste of airline travel to be concentrated about the single-use plastics used on-board, and there has been a surge of airline companies that are going “plastic-free” on their flights. Honestly, this seems to come more from a marketing standpoint than an environmental one, considering the tonnage of carbon emissions emitted from these flights that contributes to climate change far outweighs the amount of plastic that is destined to end up in landfills. While I am always in full support of bringing your own reusable cup or utensils on-board my destinations to reduce my own personal waste, I still struggle with the realization that my own personal actions do not make the slightest dent in the bigger picture of the negative environmental impacts that air travel creates.
Considering aviation travel contributes to 11% of transportation greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, (NYTimes) environmentalists are puzzled as to how we can address our concerns in tandem with living our lives. Who should assume this responsibility? If flights were to increase their fees people might likely fly less, meaning less revenue for them. If they promoted purchasing carbon offsets as another amenity in your flight expenses, it could hurt their reputations of how damaging flying operations really are.
The truth is, as travelers we aren’t prompted to include this into our airline fees, and even if they did, would we buy into it? Extra baggage? That will be $45 dollars. More leg room? Another $25. Carbon offsets? No thanks I will pass… Where is the incentive for airlines to step up to assume corporate responsibility?
So until airlines raise their prices to account for them to offset their carbon emissions, I take it upon my own consumer responsibility to pick up where these corporations have conveniently forgot to include into our flight packages. Besides flying less – which I am still trying to achieve, off-setting carbon emissions through a third party source is the only way I know how to combat my serious case of flyksgam.
In my searches for reputable and progressive off-setting organizations, I found one that is near and dear to my values that supports various projects across the globe. Cool Effect, a company that organizes and supports offsetting efforts, has a multitude of projects to choose from in order for you to personally decide how you would like to offset your emissions. The projects include preserving mangrove forests, methane capture operations that also support Native American citizens, providing clean cookstoves to families in need in rural areas, and investing in wind turbine operations to name a few.
For less than what you pay for a few cups of coffee, Cool Effect helps you gauge how much tonnage you need to offset with a handy travel calculator. My trip to and from South America cost me about $30 USD, and is going to a cause bigger than myself, while feeling good doing it. It is important that as consumers, whether we deem ourselves to be environmentalists or not, think about how our actions affect the environment, and what steps we can take to try to educate ourselves and others on what can be done to address our warming planet.