The Barbarians fly a lot. Or at least used to. For the past two years I’ve been working mainly abroad, which meant that most Monday mornings, I got up at 3:30am, took a cab to Heathrow at 4:15am, then hopped on an airplane, just to return to London on Friday evenings. Sometimes Ms B and I also met in other locations, so I would take a plane from Frankfurt to New York or Paris while she would do the same from London.
Ten years ago, we were even worse, we used to treat ourselves to overseas holiday trips two out of four weekends per month and even added some inland air travel to places like Newquay or Edinburgh.
In short, we’ve been doing an awful lot of damage to the planet during those past ten years since we met, and we’ve not been feeling great about it. Could I have said no to my jobs abroad, yes I could. Was I prepared to do that, clearly not. I had no job lined up in London and somehow you need to make some money.
Flying is extremely bad for the environment, it is pretty much the worst you can do besides nuking rain forests or crashing an oil tanker.
Today we decided that we want to make a difference, that we want to cut down on carbon emissions whenever we reasonably can, and that we want to offset those carbon emissions that we cannot reasonably avoid in our view.
We had been thinking about doing this for a while, but what put us off is the bad reputation of most of the carbon off-setting providers. You often hear that they’re simply taking your money and then spending it on nice trips abroad for their directors, involving air travel of course.
Then a friend of ours recommended Atmosfair and we had a look at their website. We liked what we saw. In Germany, where I grew up and where Atmosfair is based, we put a lot of trust into Stiftung Warentest (roughly: “Foundation for the Assessment of Goods and Services”). Their subsidiary Finanztest rated Atmosfair “very good”.
We decided to opt for a monthly plan where we pay €115 (roughly £100, or £50 per person) to offset 5 tons of carbon emissions (or 2.5 tons per person). It is really difficult to calculate your actual emissions. We chose a very conservative carbon calculator that doubles carbon emission caused by air travel, because air travel is commonly seen as twice as harmful to the environment as ground-level emissions. While it is impossible to be certain, we hope that 5 tons is at the bare minimum twice as much as we cause, which was our intention.
We are fully aware that air travel can never be sustainable as such, not the way the industry is heading right now, anyway. Until the industry completely refocuses away from chasing money and towards paying some consideration towards sustainability, air travel will be doomed in terms of sustainability.
This is why in addition to our carbon-offsetting, we are going to avoid any unnecessary air travel. I will try harder to find work in the UK, even if it pays a lot less. We will try to minimise weekend breaks overseas and make an effort to use train travel wherever possible. We will aim to travel slow, whenever we can. Travelling to, say, Paris, the Swiss Alps, Florence, and Rome can be done by train in ten days or by doing four extremely harmful weekend trips by plane.
We discovered that Britain has so many beautiful sights to be discovered. We recently visited the New Forest, the Cotswolds, Norfolk, and the Jurassic Coast. And we were always blown away by the beauty of these destinations. Looking for a great beach? Bournemouth has one of the best beaches in the UK and it’s only two hours by train. Into hiking? The Scottish Highlands are among the most amazing destinations we’ve ever been to.
For another interesting angle on sustainable travel, check out this responsible tourism guide by our buddies Green Mochila.
We’ll keep you posted about our progress. Have a great sustainable day.