Thank you for signing up to be Flight Free in 2020. Can you sum up what motivated you to sign the pledge?
I have already taken a number of individual actions to reduce my carbon footprint, such as no longer eating meat, repairing and reusing everything I can, cycling instead of driving at every opportunity and so on. However, after attending one of the Flight Free talks recently I saw that one flight can wipe out any CO2 savings I have made. I had heard flying was bad in terms of CO2, but I hadn’t realised how bad! As such, I thought signing up would be a great incentive to curb this on my part from 2020, but also perhaps for good.
How long have you been aware of climate issues?
I have been aware of a number of environmental issues for more than thirty years. For example, twenty years ago my friends ridiculed me for refusing to learn to drive a car. Due to poor public transport I eventually had to learn to drive, but I managed without for 15 years.
Deforestation has always been at the top of my list of concerns, as arboreal forests are massive carbon sinks. They are literally the lungs of the world. We need more natural forest and less burning of fossil fuels if we stand a chance of making it through this. Also, they are homes to so many incredible life forms – why we aren’t protecting such beautiful and diverse life is beyond me.
How often have you flown in the past?
More than I’d like to admit, and I will confess that my partner and I have booked a holiday in Vietnam at the end of 2019. However, that will be my last flight, certainly for all of 2020, and hopefully well beyond that.
Only around 50% of the UK population actually flies, but most of the flights we do take are for leisure. What do you think would be the most effective thing in reducing them?
It’s very simple – make overland and sea transport as efficient, comfortable, and inexpensive as possible, and then advertise how much fun it is! I already love trains, and if trains within the UK had been granted the same subsidies as flights, therefore being more accessible for those at the lower end of the salary scale, I would definitely have taken more inland journeys by train rather than plane.
How will being flight-free next year affect your life? Do you have any plans for holidays or travel?
My partner and I have already started discussing a backpacking train holiday to Scotland or around Europe next year in place of flying anywhere. We’re actually quite excited about the prospect!
Is it daunting or exciting to have taken the pledge?
It was daunting at first, because I signed up to go Flight Free in a fit of passion without wondering how my partner would take it. She is a seasoned traveller and loves flying off on some new adventure somewhere. However, we’ve talked about it, and she is being very supportive of me. Also, she loves trains too, so discussions around train-based holidays have made me rather excited about having taken the pledge.
What reaction do your friends and family have to you going flight free?
Probably the same as all those years ago when I refused to drive a car. Incredulous. Dismissive. A bit shocked. Their reactions are so telling – it shows how normalised flying has become. I think my friends and colleagues have also been shocked to hear of the environmental impact of flying, and how little time we have to turn the problem around.
What might you do to influence others to go flight free in 2020?
I’m certainly talking about it a lot. It has gone up on both my Twitter and Facebook feeds. When anyone asks me of holiday plans for next year I’ll be talking excitedly of overland explorations and the reasons why I’m not flying. My workplace prides itself on maintaining a low environmental impact, so I will pass this message to them too – I wonder if our CEO could stay grounded for a whole year?