I’m in the middle of a dilemma.
As October ends, I’m in the midst of my first trip to France. My husband and I planned this travel abroad in honor of our 40th wedding anniversary.
The more I learn about the climate crisis, the more I realize I/we need to make some big lifestyle changes. The mantra—reduce, reuse, recycle—has been relatively easy to follow in our home and throughout our small community. Eating local and organic, bicycling or walking instead of driving, avoiding single-use items, and carpooling are among our planet-saving efforts, too.
We haven’t, however, been willing to eliminate airline travel.
With a two-year-old grandchild (and her parents) living 2,200 miles away, friends and family across the globe, and relatively easy and inexpensive flights, I’m resisting giving that all up.
But, the reality is sobering.
According to Sustainable Travel International, “Tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions.” Most of them come from the flight—just over 1.25 metric tons from a round trip flight from San Francisco to Paris. To put those emissions in perspective, that one flight produces over a quarter of the carbon the average person creates in one year.
No matter how many sustainable practices I can (and should) follow while traveling, their effects are minimal compared to the huge cost to the environment when I step onto an airplane. Recognizing my complicity makes me squirm in my cramped airplane seat, but it hasn’t yet pushed me to tear up my boarding pass.
For this anniversary trip, though, we took one new step; we spent about fifty bucks on carbon offsets through Sustainable Travel International. Sustainable Travel then invests those credits in certified carbon reduction projects such as protecting forest ecosystems, creating clean energy, and improving air and water quality.
I know that climate activist Greta Thunberg wishes we’d do more. I know there’s much more for us to do so that granddaughter in Chicago—and her children and grandchildren—have a world to enjoy and care for. For now, this is one step I can take.