As I begin my Churchill Fellowship trip, I wanted to address the incongruence between the sustainable practices I’m exploring and the fact that travel, particularly intercontinental travel, makes a huge contribution to carbon dioxide emissions. While some of the mitigating actions I’m taking are small, orders of magnitude smaller in some cases than say a flight from London to Sao Paolo, sticking to those principles can have large effects over time. Here it is about demonstrating principles.
My aim is to perform some carbon mapping during and post trip so that I can report the footprint of my travels so watch this space!
Most of my flights have been booked through Diversity Travel who support Fellows to find the best deals. Diversity provides carbon offsets for their flights – while there is a lot of debate over the effectiveness and appropriateness of carbon offsets, as long as it doesn’t provide an excuse for more travel, my sense is it is better to do than not. Flights are likely to be the vast majority of my footprint and thus the final amount of CO2 will very much depend on the assumption/perspective one takes on the carbon offset. I’m waiting on Diversity to send me their policies so I can delve into the exact details and pass some comment on this…
I will aim to keep land travel to public transport to share my emissions with many others. When practicality dictates, I will try to use Uber or the ilk in keeping with one of the key tenets of the circular economy: maximising the utilisation of assets.
Similarly to the above, I will be using AirBnB / house shares as part of maximising the utilisation of assets. Again, I know there have been unintended consequences e.g. San Francisco, but my view again is that the social impact is neutral and the environmental impact of not building big hotels and resorts are positive.
From a utilities usage perspective, I will generally be out and about so I will not be in the accommodation much meaning my power and water needs will be small. I cannot control my source of electricity (fossil fuel versus renewables) so I will assume a worst case scenario when I come to calculate.
As an aside, if I were to buy iPads and a lot of textiles from virgin resources, then this category could rival the Flights category for carbon footprint due to the large associated extraction energy (without even considering the depletion of material stock). I’m sure I will succumb to one or two souvenirs in the end but I’m more than happy to walk away with memories (sometimes snapped by my camera).
Food, drink and other consumables…
Local sourcing is generally a good rule of thumb. However, it becomes very tricky very quickly – consider growing a tomato in a greenhouse with heating and lighting in the UK versus sourcing from Spain – the carbon calculations will most likely show that the foreign veggies are better for the environment. The New Zealand lamb industry like to point out that their lamb is less burdensome to the planet even when eaten in the UK when compared to Welsh lamb, due to the efficiencies in farming practices which outweigh the travel footprint (I’ll let the reader look through the data and decide for themselves!). The trick is to stick in season with your local area – don’t buy fresh strawberries in December in the UK, but go wild in May/June. The implication for me is that I will have to learn what food is in-season wherever I go! Luckily, I’ll be in rather fertile lands meaning that I shouldn’t be limited to turnips.
The above categories cover the main contributors to my footprint and will be something I keep a record of as best I can while tripping, with the intention of collating it all at the end to show the environmental impact. I’ll try to aim low!