Day 10: Make your miles count
Today's action: Reflecting on flying
If you fly more than once a year, then today’s action is to take a few minutes to consider how you can get more out of your miles while reducing your time in the sky. For example: can you bundle your trips? Instead of taking two flying vacations, can you take one longer vacation? Can you seek out a restorative vacay closer to home? Can you focus more on "love miles" to see faraway loved ones and less on far-flung destinations for the sake of it? Can you otherwise be choosier about what you’ll fly for?
If you travel for work, your hands may be somewhat tied, but can you advocate for doing more of that work remotely? One thing that the pandemic taught us is that remote meetings can be an easy, effective way to exchange information! Swap work trips for some telepresence and you might even get away with not having to wear pants (don’t take our word for it, here’s Trevor Noah on the subject!). Or can you bundle your trips, so you’re taking fewer of them and maximizing the trips you do take?
And if you’re looking for a next-level commitment, you could take the “FlightFree2022” Pledge. (Two options: totally flight free, or flight free for vacations.) If you’re intrigued but not quite there yet, perhaps make up an adapted version that works for you.
If you can, make a plan based on today’s brainstorming. Or just repeat after us: “I’m going to be choosier about what I’ll fly for, and when I fly, I’ll make my miles count.” High five.
Why this action? Although the aviation industry will tell you that flights only account for 2.5% of global carbon emissions, the high-altitude effects of flying amplify its global warming impact -- making aviation responsible for 3 times the amount of warming that would normally be associated with those carbon emissions. Even without including those high-altitude effects, a single roundtrip flight from NYC to London creates more carbon emissions than the average person in 56 different countries produces in a year.
We’re not here to flight-shame anyone (really, we’re not!), but for frequent flyers, the most high impact action you can take to reduce your own emissions is to take fewer flights. Reducing flights is also important because scientists say that offsets don’t work. So try your best to reduce your time in the sky!
Looking for more? Read on for more info and actions on air travel (including the Flight Free pledge if you want to level up!).
Learn and reflect:
Play around with The Guardian’s carbon calculator for flights.
Watch the Climate Ad Project’s funny little videos on offsets (and read their accompanying explanation of why offsets don’t work).
If you need or choose to keep flying, you could consider coupling it with steps that support more investments in climate mitigation and adaptation. For example, climate scientist Kimberly Nicholas suggests taking the same amount you spend on flights, and paying it into your own “future fund,” to be spent on investments that reduce your personal emissions (for example, a solar heater or a heat pump). Or do what one of Kaitlin’s mentors does: for every ton emitted through flying, donate $100+ to a local organization that supports climate adaptation. Reminder: these aren’t offsets! But these steps can still help, including by starting to better approximate the cost of carbon.
If your workplace generates lots of flights, you could seek opportunities to reduce work travel. For example, if employees have to travel frequently, can you advocate for bundling trips (including making the case to your clients for why fewer trips saves them money?). If you organize conferences, can you set up good telepresence options so people don’t have to fly to participate?
If you’re a Microsoft employee or customer, check out and participate in the Just Use Teams campaign, an initiative that seeks to get the company to reduce its business flights.