Confessional: All my flying makes me a bad human


Photo By: Gilbert R.

On Sunday I returned from yet another trip away. I swear I’ve been away from home at least once per month this year and I’m feeling burned out from it all.

To set the scene, my job requires me to attend quite a number of meetings throughout the year. Nearly all of them are on the other side of the country and a few are even international. The only way I can get to these meetings is to fly….. and I feel as guilty as h&*# about it. I know flying is one of the worst things we can do for the environment and I feel like this one aspect of my life undoes all the good work I do in other areas.

For many of us who are trying to live a more sustainable life, one of the most difficult realisations comes when we begin to understand that as long as industrialised civilisation exists, there is very little impact each individual can make. Sure, I could quit my job and go and live a subsistence lifestyle in the woods, but someone else will simply take my place at all these meetings. That someone else might make no attempt to minimise their impact while travelling, while at least I am conscious of my impact and attempt to reduce it where possible by:

  • Buying carbon offsets when available
  • Taking a direct flight if not prohibitively expensive
  • Minimising the amount of waste I produce on the aircraft and in airports (have you seen the amount of trash produced every flight!)
  • Taking a train where possible

Unfortunately I think that until we can scale the entire system down to a much smaller level, business as usual will continue. While flights around the continent and the world remain cheap and plentiful, people will continue to travel. Of course we all have a choice to reduce our “non-essential” travel, but until something big forces equally big changes, the system as we know it will limp along for as long as possible.

My view is that flying will simply have to become more expensive – be it through ever higher fuel costs, taxation or as a result of emissions trading. Only by becoming more expensive will ticket prices start to better reflect flying’s environmental impact and therefore drive down demand. Business will be forced to reconsider how much flying is really necessary.

Don’t get me wrong, while we’ve had them I’ve enjoyed cheap flights as much as the next person. However I willingly concede that there are things in this world that do not reflect their true cost…flying is one of them. The era of cheap flights must end.


  1. I totally agree the era of cheap flights has to end. Although it is extremely sad and i’m sure future generations will be amazed at how much we fly. My now hubby and I had a long distance relationship for 7 years and thought nothing of flying from one side of Australia to the other every few months. I was recently imagining how easy it may be for my duaghter to travel overseas in 20 years time. Will she be able to afford to fly? How difficult will it be for her to travel overseas? I think we have been pretty lucky.

    I’m not overly confident that buyiong carbon offsets works – so for my last flight i calculated how much I would have to reduce my car travel to off set the one flight. i would haver had to totallygive up the car every day for two years!

  2. You’re right about carbon offsets Tricia. I’m also skeptical about how valid they are. I guess like all things, there are people setting up these systems for the greater good, and then there are those just trying to make a quick buck. I guess I’ll need to do more research and find the more reputable schemes.

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