There are many people who write articles about why they don’t fly. There are also many articles by people about why they do. What I haven’t yet seen is someone who did fly, writing with hindsight about whether the journey was worthwhile or not. So that’s what I want to do here, a kind of cost-benefit analysis of the trip.
The first point I want to make is that for me, deciding to make this trip was a really big deal. We can do all the things we like at home to reduce our carbon footprint, but one substantial flight throws that out of the window. As Ed Gillespe writes in his recent book ‘Only Planet’, the record of his round-the-world trip without planes:
“Flying makes the world seem small. But let’s face it, it’s not. It’s a 25,000 mile journey around the equator. That’s a bit more than a stroll in the park”.
“Travel is a gifted privilege not a given right. Think about this next time someone argues they ‘deserve’ a holiday”.
The US is a very, very long way from the UK. We calculated the amount of carbon used to get there, for internal flights while there and the journey home again, for both Peter and myself. We did this using three different carbon calculating websites, and took an average of their (surprisingly varied) results. My total was 3.4 tonnes (14,804 miles), and Peter’s, who only came on the first part of the trip, was 2.08 (8,776 miles). For context, the average UK carbon footprint is 14 tonnes (when you include aviation). To reach a point consistent with the challenge of climate change, our footprints should be falling to around 3 tonnes, so a trip like that is a big deal.
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