Flyer’s Guilt: Hypocrisy & Actions

I feel like a hypocrite.

Cause I am..

Here I am, posting blogs about sustainability. How the world is being littered and destroyed by our ‘neo-liberal capitalist ways’. What sustainable solutions we need to be cheering on. Preaching about the importance of sustainable tourism.

But Meanwhile..

I take a flight to Mexico. And not just a flight, no, one that has two layovers in locations that seem to take me even further from my destination then I actually was. This of course increases the amount of air time and kerosene burned dramatically (besides the fact that it’s already a freaking long intercontinental flight). And why? Because it was a couple bucks cheaper.

And while I do make sure to pay CO2 compensation for every flight I take, that’s not really a solution. Especially because it’s also very difficult to determine if and how much CO2 compensation actually works.

guilt of flying: CO2 compensation projects

The Numbers

“One round trip between New York and California generates about 20% of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over a year.” – New York Times

“Want to compensate a round trip from the Netherlands to Thailand? That would mean eating no meat for six years!” – de Volkskrant

And flights are becoming increasingly more accessible. Therefore it is predicted that between 2050 and 2100, the sector will emit as much carbon dioxide as the entire world is allowed to do under the Paris Climate Agreement. – de Volkskrant

Guilt of flying: pollution

The Guilt

So yeah, not surprising that I’m developing guilt of flying. And I’m not the only one. The sentiment has grown so much that there’s now a real word for it in the Dutch language: “vliegschaamte”.

But what to do with guilt? If I got to be honest.. It’s quite a useless emotion that will only make yourself miserable and no-one else better.

It’s so much more rewarding to take action with the information that we have. Not saying that’s easy, especially not with flying. The choice for flying often seems necessary (i.e went to Mexico to visit boyfriends home, flying to Dublin this summer for my studies).

How to Reduce my Guilt of Flying?

Well, let’s start with limiting my flights.

  • No intercontinental trips shorter than a month.
  • Trips within Europe always via train if possible.
  • Choose direct flights.
  • Pay CO2 compensation for every flight.
  • No more than one round trip per year, unless work or study demands otherwise.

This is ambitious. (And yes, also priviliged.) Let’s see how I will do.

In the end, there’s not much difference I can make on an individual level. Hopefully there will be scientific breakthroughs and political actions, so one day I can fly around the globe guilt-free.

And if I really can’t be climate neutral any other way, well.. not having children is the most sustainable decision we can make.


Photo credits in order of appearance: Dawid Matyszczyk, Zbynek Burival,David Leeon Unsplash

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