Welcome to a brand new series of The Flight Free podcast!
To kick off our new series we want to share with you the reasons why people are taking a flight free year, so in this episode you’ll hear from people from all over the UK and Ireland telling us about their motivations for signing up to the pledge.
Why Flight Free?
Firstly, to reduce emissions.
Not everybody flies, but for those who do, flights are likely to make up the largest part of our carbon footprints. Reducing the amount you fly is the quickest and most impactful way to keep emissions down.
"Reducing the amount you fly is the quickest and most impactful way to keep emissions down."
Secondly, to create a social movement away from aviation.
Flying has become normal over the last 30 years or so, and many people jump on a plane without really thinking about it.
Thirdly, for system change.
Our individual actions can help to put pressure on government and industry policy, which is what we really need if we’re going to see meaningful action on climate change.
Fourthly, for justice.
There are so many injustices surrounding aviation, and the biggest one is that it’s us living high carbon lifestyles who are causing the climate crisis, but it’s the people around the world who have done least to cause it who are suffering the most.
Flight Free Fact
Not taking just one return transatlantic flight per year reduces your carbon footprint by 1.8 - 2.5 tonnes CO2, depending on where you are flying to.
According to behaviour change experts, it only takes 3.5 percent of a population to change society.
Ella, Oliver, Amy, Amber, Erin and Isaac have pledged to be flight free for the climate
For these guys, it’s all about the climate crisis and having a healthy planet. Oliver and Isaac talk about wanting to reduce pollution and protect the planet for future generations. They’re the ones who will inherit the mess we’re currently making, and we often find that children see things a bit more simply than adults: Flying is polluting, so let’s stop flying!
You can sign up children or young relatives to the pledge using their name and your own email address.
Amber and Amy both talk about taking strength from the things you can do, rather than feeling powerless about the things we have no control over. It often feels like we don’t have any influence, but actually, we do.
Amy also talks about how our personal climate action feeds into something a bit bigger, and how taking the pledge can raise awareness of how polluting flying is. We all have a ripple effect, and our choices make those around us think, even if they don’t make the same choices.
"We all have a ripple effect, and our choices make those around us think, even if they don’t make the same choices."
We know that individual action alone is not enough, but when we do it together, that’s when real change happens.
For Isaac, Sunita and Finlay, changing the system is important.
Our actions not only influence each other, they can also influence policy at a higher level. This is a key part of why individual action is never just about the individual, it can be about society and system too.
"Individual action is never just about the individual, it can be about society and system too."
There are two ways that we can change policy. The first is to put pressure on our government by signing petitions and protesting and voting and writing to government ministers and things like that. The second way is to use our actions to demonstrate what our priorities are. When lots of people do this, industry responds.
At the moment our UK politicians think the best way to get airlines to invest in green technology is to fly more. If we just carry on flying, we’re saying we’re OK with business as usual.
"If we stop flying because of the climate crisis, then we’re forcing industry and government to respond."
But if we stop flying because of the climate crisis, then we’re forcing industry and government to respond. Ideally that would lead to more investment in genuine low-carbon transport, like trains, rather than investment in false solutions like techno-fixes for flights.
Sunita and Freddie also talk about justice
One of the key injustices of the climate crisis is that our high-carbon lifestyles in the west are causing it, but it’s not us who are suffering. People across the world have been seeing the effects of climate change and living with the consequences for years, and they have done the least to cause it. So it’s part of climate justice that the people who are creating the most CO2 emissions, i.e. us, need to urgently reduce them.
"Our high-carbon lifestyles are causing the climate crisis, but it’s other people who are suffering."
For many people, flights can be the easiest thing to give up. It might seem hard to ditch the flights, especially because flights and travel can become a bit tied in with our personality, but most flights are not essential.
There is massive global inequality when it comes to emissions and the climate crisis, and we should be doing everything we can to address that. But even here in the UK, only around half of people fly in any given year, but we all suffer the consequences.
There are some very immediate effects, like the noise and air pollution for people under flight paths, and then of course there are the very high emissions of people who take lots of flights. Here in the UK, 15% of people take 70% of the flights. So that’s a small number of frequent flyers creating most of the pollution.
"15% of people take 70% of the flights. That’s a small number of frequent flyers creating most of the pollution."
Of course, it’s harder if you have family overseas, but even then, we have to be realistic about the climate crisis and how emissions from air travel contribute to that. Sunita has family in Mauritius so it’s really interesting to hear her experiences and how that influences her choice to take the flight free pledge.
Maya, Liffy, Hannah, Cat and Miriam are looking forward to travelling flight-free
We have so many treasures here under our noses, that we overlook if we are constantly jetting off somewhere else. There is a lifetime of travel right here in the UK if we choose to look. It’s accessible, it’s affordable, and some of the sights we have here, people travel across the world to see! We could do a lot worse than really getting to know Great Britain.
"We have so many treasures here under our noses, that we overlook if we are constantly jetting off somewhere else."
Of course, if you do want to go further afield, it’s perfectly possible. Liffy just spent three days on a train from Glasgow to Granada in Spain. Lots of people think that they can’t travel overland because it’s too long and difficult. But as Liffy says, she wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way. Yes, it takes longer than flying, but you just have to slightly change how you think about travel, and see the journey as part of the holiday rather than just a means of getting there.
"See the journey as part of the holiday rather than just a means of getting there."
All the people who send us their travel stories say the same thing. People are often nervous to try, but when they do, they absolutely love it. Overland travel is so enriching and exciting, and is often the most memorable part of the holiday. So it doesn’t matter that it takes longer – it’s all part of it.
On the ‘travel’ category on the Be Inspired page of our website we have tales of taking the train from Bristol to Switzerland, a boat from Hull to Helsinki, going from Cardiff to Gran Canaria, from Pembrokeshire to Prague, and even by train all the way to China. Every single person says that their long journey was worth every minute.
Of course, Covid is making everything very difficult right now.
To help plan your overland travel you could go to Byway.travel, headed up by Cat. There’s also the No Fly Travel Club that can help you as well, and if you want to plan your own trips, go to The Man in Seat 61 for information about travelling to any destination in the world without flying.
Miriam lives in Dublin, so her pledge counts towards the Ireland total, rather than the UK pledge. You can pledge from anywhere in the world – if you want to find out the worldwide pledge total you can go to the Swedish site that started the whole campaign, which is westayontheground.org
Miriam wasn’t sure about taking the pledge but has found it to be a positive thing. We hear from a lot of people who aren’t sure if they could really commit to a pledge like this, but we find again and again that once people give it a try, they find that actually, taking a year off flying is really achievable. There can be many positives to it, and the pledge can be the prompt they need to try out a more sustainable lifestyle. We’re not saying you can never fly again, but one year often leads to another, and it can lead to a really positive lifestyle change.
"Once people give it a try, they find that taking a year off flying is really achievable."
Slow travel is definitely about relaxing and enjoying the sights and sounds, and it’s such a great way to see the world.
Destination of the month
Every month we recommend somewhere for you to visit. It could be here in the UK or it could be somewhere a bit further afield, but the crucial thing is you can, of course, get there without flying.
This month we’re recommending the Cairngorms in Scotland. You can get there by train from anywhere in the UK, either to Pitlochry or Aviemore, and you can even get a sleeper train if you’re travelling from the south. It’s a great destination for winter sports, and if you’re not into skiing or snowboarding there are some fabulous woodland walks.
There’s some really great cycling as well, even in the winter – just make sure you have good quality gloves! There are a few lovely little towns where you can get a cosy pub dinner after a day out in the cold, such as at Braemar and Tomintoul, and you’re never far from Inverness if you want to swap the mountains for the city.
Thanks for listening!
Thanks to all of our pledgers who shared their inspiring statements with us: Ella, Oliver, Amy, Amber, Erin, Isaac, Sunita, Finlay, the other Isaac, Freddie, Maya, Liffy, Hannah, Cat and Miriam.
We hope that you’re inspired to make 2022 your year of being flight free. You can sign up at flight free.co.uk, and don’t forget to share the pledge with your friends and family to help us spread the word.
Hopefully, Covid allowing, we’ll be able to have some more grounded adventures this year, so whether you’re exploring the UK or heading further afield we wish you happy travels!