What can you do to reduce your carbon usage?

The blizzard of alarming statistics about the rapid rate of climate change and the tiny window of opportunity we now have to prevent irreparable global warming all point to one thing Ė we all need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions. Itís easy to feel helpless and hopeless in the face of climate change, and thereís no question that government and industry should be leading the charge here, but there are also positive steps that each one of us can take, not just when we travel, but every single day.

Fly less

At Responsible Travel, we believe passionately in the power of tourism to do good. It can help provide sustainable livelihoods, conserve wildlife and cultural heritage and generate positive understanding between people around the world. But we can’t ignore the part aviation emissions play in climate change and we can’t offset our way out of this crisis, either. Carbon offsetting is not an effective alternative, and simply distracts from the real issue or reducing emissions. Inevitably, we all need to change our flying habits. Put simply, we need to fly less.

This doesn’t mean no flying, it means smarter flying, such as by taking fewer but longer vacations that involve a flight. This ensures that each flight counts. Let’s also start exploring destinations closer to home that we can reach by train, to wean ourselves off the insanely cheap flights that have normalised and popularised the idea of flying overseas for just a few days.

Pay more

In addition to flying less, we should be prepared to pay more. Flying has been kept artificially cheap through an oversupply created by Ďopen skiesí deals and also, more shockingly, by international aviation fuel being exempt from tax and VAT. This is a tax break for aviation that amounts to around £10bn annually in the UK.

Of course, it seems like a modern miracle that you can fly to Barcelona or Berlin for the price of a pizza and a couple of beers, but thereís a colossal cost to this apparent bargain. Emissions from the aviation sector are growing fast, with more and more people flying than ever before. If aviation were a country, it would be the 7th largest emitter of CO2 in the world, just behind Germany.

A Green Flying Duty

An increase in the cost of flights would make us all pause before booking the next one, but higher prices could also deliver more than just a deterrent. Responsible Travel is calling for a new global tax on aviation, a Green Flying Duty, which would be ring-fenced for investment in the future of decarbonised travel, and we’d like to see all national governments roll this out globally.

The UK already charges Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is similar to a tax but is nowhere near at the levels that the car industry faces. It’s not ring-fenced for environmental use either. Let’s increase APD and rename it as a Green Flying Duty, to make clear it’s an environmental tax, and use it exclusively for Research and Development (R&D) in electric aviation and improving railway connectivity. It’s short term pain, for long term gain. The sooner we can have non-polluting planes in our skies, the better.

Reducing CO2 at home

In addition to changing our traveling patterns and flying habits, we can bring our personal carbon emissions down in lots of other ways. Look into generating some, or ideally all, of your domestic energy. The cost of installing solar panels continues to drop, so see if itís feasible to fit a few on your roof or even in your garden. Or why not install a small wind turbine? Energy from wind turbines doesnít have to come exclusively from large scale wind farms. You can buy a small turbine on the internet for a few hundred quid in the UK, which may not supply all your energy, but will certainly supplement it.

Switch to a green energy tariff, too, from a supplier that not only supplies green energy, but makes it too. In the UK, Good Energy supplies 100 percent renewable energy and carbon neutral gas, generated from sun, wind and water by local generators in the UK, and has developed its own wind and solar farms. Ecotricity supplies green electricity and frack-free gas, but also invests the money from your energy bills to develop new sources of green energy and sustainable projects, such as the Electric Highway, a national electric vehicle charging network.
If you’re replacing your car, buy an electric or hybrid vehicle, new or second hand. With more and more charging points appearing around the country, and rapid charge batteries allowing you to top up your vehicle’s power fast, ‘range anxiety’ is becoming a thing of the past.

In the UK, we’d also urge everyone to vote Green. Yes, we’re getting political. There are, currently, more than 165 principal authority councillors around England and Wales, and two London Assembly members. Your vote may not result in any more new Green MPs in parliament (as of spring 2019 there is just one, Caroline Lucas) but it can certainly have great impact at local level. Your vote also sends a message to the larger parties that green issues are important and this should encourage whoever’s in power to implement more green policies.

Individuals can only do so much to bring down overall carbon emissions. It’s the job of governments around the world to lead on this, and for each nation, no matter what their total carbon emissions, to set an example for the really big polluting countries, such as the US, China and India.

Consider the carbon footprint of everything you buy, from appliances to food. Be local, buy local and consume a little less in all areas of your life – that’s the message.

At Responsible Travel, we don’t want people to feel guilty about their travel plans or lifestyle, we want them to feel empowered and excited about making positive changes which reduce carbon emissions, through responsible lifestyle tweaks and careful consumption. Positive change is just that – positive. So, let’s bin the guilt and the hopelessness, it’s time to take action – and feel good about it.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Blomst] [Fly less: Dirk VorderstraŖe] [Buy an electric or hybrid vehicle: Joenomias]