Over the last seven months, I have taken more than 50 International flights, averaging about eight hours each. As I was about to embark on my latest flight to Yale to start the Greenberg World Fellowship, I received a message from a dear friend enquiring what I do to offset my carbon footprint given my frequent travel and could I share it so that others could learn.
Her message made me pause and think more deeply about my carbon footprint. An eight-hour flight on average would generate about 1.2t of CO2 per passenger in economy class. But there are many other ways we leave our footprint.
I have been conscious about the sustainability of the planet for a long time and as an SDG – Sustainable Development Goals – #WorldWeWant2030 proponent, I definitely try to “walk my talk”.
It can be useful to know what your footprint is, so you are more aware and motivated to do something about it. Recently, at two different events, I had the chance to calculate my Ecological Footprint, and my lifestyle has ranged from six earths to 0.8 earths to sustain depending on which site you choose to use.
Either way, as my friend rightfully asked me, what am I doing for the sustainability of the planet? This is what I do.
- Air Travel – The biggest contributor to my footprint is my constant air travel. At this point in time, for my personal and professional goals, it is important and necessary for me to travel. Having said that, I try to club my trips wherever possible so that I save a flight here and there or do Skype sessions when it is not absolutely necessary to physically be there in person. As an ex-airline person, I also do believe that the method of assigning the carbon footprint must be divided amongst all the passengers and not be loaded on one person’s carbon passport. Air travel is an essential transport option and will only increase. But choosing airlines like Lufthansa that have a carbon emission offset program and an environmental strategy also helps.
- Road Travel – I sold my car a few years ago and on a daily basis, avoid taking private transport. I use buses, trains and walk a lot. It helps that I work from home and my organisation does not have an office. When I do have meetings, I club them on one day to minimise my travel. So as an individual and an employer, I am ensuring that travel is taken up only where necessary.
- Consumerism – I have a very light lifestyle where I shop rarely, recycle and reuse as much as I can and have minimal refuse.
- Eat Fresh – Whenever I am not travelling, I eat fresh food which is locally sourced and is mainly vegetarian. I avoid red meat as much as possible.
- Electricity and power – I rarely use an air conditioner and make do with a fan whenever needed. My electricity consumption is quite minimal when I compare my bills with what others pay.
- Empowerment – Through my work, I educate people on various ways to achieve the SDGs and be responsible citizens. Currently, we are hosting a Youth Innovation Challenge on solutions for Creating a Resilient and Inclusive City as part of the UN Habitat’s Urban Thinkers Campus. Innovative ideas of 12 young teams are being incubated over the next four months. The solutions range from women’s safety to waste management, sanitation and urban governance. In the spirit of the conference, we planted a grove of trees for all participants and a tree in honour of each speaker at GrowTrees.
It helps that I work from home and my organisation does not have an office. When I do have meetings, I club them on one day to minimise my travel. So as an individual and an employer, I am ensuring that travel is taken up only where necessary.
Is there more I can do to reduce my carbon footprint? Yes, for sure. I am definitely conscious of mine and constantly looking for ways to minimise it and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
If you have tips for me, I would be happy to learn from your experiences.
Picture Credit: avenuecalgary.com
Views expressed are the author’s own.