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In conversation with Emily Tulloh

Community engagement specialist Emily Tulloh chats to us about our new pledge options, and shares her own travel plans for 2023.

18 Jan 2023 6 min read

This is episode 1 of our 2023 podcast series. Listen to the episode here and find other episodes and previous series here.

Welcome to a brand new series of the flight free podcast and our first ‘In conversation with’.

Today we are joined by Emily Tulloh, a community engagement specialist who has been working with us to develop our messaging and our new pledge for 2023.


After studying product design at uni I decided that I didn’t want to fill the world with more stuff, but I loved understanding people and what they need, and designing things alongside people. Most of the work I do now is around designing services for local councils.

The work I’ve done for Flight Free UK is to do some market research with people about the pledge and website – their first impressions, how it made them feel, what they thought it was all about, and whether they would sign up. There were a broad range of responses, but something that stood out was when people answered ‘no’ to that original question, which was, “Could you take a flight free year?” A lot of people said it was so far away from where they were currently, it made them defensive and want to leave the website, rather than find out more.

So the outcome was that we added the option to design your own pledge so wherever you are in your journey, it’s inclusive and open to everyone.

Flight Free UK

In order to make the changes we need to address the climate crisis, we really should be reducing the amount we fly as much as we possibly can. It’s gone beyond that point of being able to just take one less flight. But we are not going to get anywhere unless people come with us, and that's the challenge for a campaign like ours, to inspire people to come with us and not shut down on the first look. We have to strike that balance between how serious it is and how urgent it is, but also empowering and enabling people to take in a way that works for them.


I became interested in climate action in 2018, the year that everything came together: David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, school strikes, Extinction Rebellion and the IPCC report that said there’s 12 years left to make meaningful action. That year changed the course of my life. I started getting involved in activism and quit my previous job, to start doing community engagement around climate change. 

I was inspired to think about stopping flying by a colleague who said she only took one return flight per year for the climate. That opened my eyes to the idea that it is possible to do less. The idea of giving up flying completely is a non-negotiable, as I have family in Australia, but the deeper I get into it, the closer I am coming to being flight free. 

At the beginning it was so far away from where I was at, because I do lots of other things, like I don’t eat meat, I don't buy anything new, so flights was my one thing. But trying slow travel trips has really showed me that this is a wild adventure and it's super fun. It needs to be a positive narrative.

Flight Free UK

We try to focus on the positive narrative at Flight Free UK. There are a lot of people who want to take climate action but who allow themselves to fly because they do other things and they can’t imagine giving it up. That’s where the pledge comes in: people can give it a try, rather than contemplate giving up flying for good.

We’re trying to reach the people whose default is to book a flight because they haven’t considered the alternatives. If you are part of a community or family group who flies you’ll assume that everybody flies, even though it’s a tiny fraction of the global community that flies, and here in Britain only around half of people fly in any given year.

We’ve updated our language, and we’re now framing it as a challenge. So rather than asking “Could you take a flight free year?”, we are now saying, “Are you ready to go big on climate action – take the flight free challenge and see where staying grounded could take you.”


The word challenge really resonates with me. The other thing that really resonates is the fact that you're talking about it. It can feel like a drop in the ocean if you’re just choosing not to take a flight, until realise your potential to influence those around you. Through conversations with friends and colleagues, by talking about the choices that you're making in a way that is non-judgemental, you can plant seeds that can influence others in the future.

For my flight free pledge, I want to focus on what I am going to do rather than what I’m not going to do. This will help me frame the conversation when I talk about my travel choices with others. So my pledge is to stay grounded for trips in Europe for a year.

Flight Free UK

Not flying within Europe means that you would be able to travel to Australia for family reasons if you needed to. Obviously flying to Australia is very high carbon! so it's not like you are saying no flights within Europe but I can go to Australia as much as I want! This must be a real challenge for you – your family is on the other side of the world, and it is very difficult to get there without flying. How do you reconcile that?


This has been the cause of a lot of conversations between me and my parents! For a while I thought I would never fly again, then I realised I would lose out on big things, for example if my sister had a baby. So I will fly to Australia, but I will do so infrequently. I think there are a lot of people in similar positions. 

My sister is in Australia but my parents are in Edinburgh. They are going to join the pledge not to fly in Europe, but they will be going to Australia to see their parents and their daughter.

Flight Free UK

It’s a lot easier to travel to Edinburgh without flying! Do you travel up and down between London and Edinburgh frequently? 


Yes, I take the train all the time. I go back every couple of months. I have taken the sleeper train – including a time when the sleeper train broke down and we had to get a coach, which was not great!

Flight Free UK

It’s worth remembering travel can be a nightmare regardless of whether you travel by train or fly! 

You might not know but London to Edinburgh is the UK’s busiest air route. It seems crackers that it should be, because it's so easy to travel by train. We try to encourage people not to fly domestically, which is an absolute minimum for the pledge.


Talking about domestic travel, I’d like to go to Ireland or Northern Ireland this year, and I’ll go by Rail and Sail. 

Flight Free UK

Thanks for joining us, Emily, and for giving your insights into our campaign.

If you are inspired to sign up for a flight free year or to make your own pledge, you can do so on our website:

Listen to the full episode here and find other episodes and previous series here.


Interview conducted and produced by Anna Hughes. Voiceover: Louise Millington. Intro music: Call to Arms by Aaron Paul Low. Outro music: First Action Hero by Aaron Paul Low.