Feeling bad for your frequent flying habits? 5 ways to reduce `flight shame`

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“Flyskam” is a Swedish buzzword that got popular in 2019, but is still highly relevant. In English, it translates very well to “flight shame”.

And that is a very good description of what I feel when I step into an airplane from Oslo to Shanghai. There is a reason for that: flying long-distance flights is the single worst thing human beings can do to the environment. Let me give you an example to illustrate how bad my trip would be.

What are the carbon emissions of flying from Europe to China?

A quite brilliant website called shameplane.com gives you the answer. The website is very easy to use: all you need to do is to fill in where you are leaving from and your destination. Choose “business” or “economy” class. Based on that, the website will calculate your total CO2 emission. More importantly, it will also give you an indication of what types of eco-friendly activity you would need to do to “remove” the CO2.

If you choose your start destination in Oslo and end-destination in Shanghai, this is how you screen will look like:

Total carbon emissions by flying Oslo-Shanghai equals living a super eco-friendly lifestyle for a year.

Even though I ticked off all the eco-friendly activities (no meat, recycling everything, zero food waste, no car, and reusable shopping bag), I barely outweigh the CO2 emissions from a long-distance flight.

In other words: the screenshot illustrates why I feel “flight shame”. You could either try Shame Plane yourself – or read below to know how to justify your frequent flight habits.

5 things that makes you reduce your “flight shame” anxiety

I know that “anxiety” might sound like a harsh word, but it fits the feeling I get when I book these trips. However, my professional career does require me to fly a lot between Europe and Asia.

1. “Is this trip necessary? Could it be done in any other and more eco-friendly way?”

Those two questions are always the first on my agenda when I am planning a trip. Certain rules always apply before I go on a long-distance flight:

– I refuse to fly business class (unless I am randomly upgraded, which only happened once)

– Efficiency. If I know that I can set up a meeting with several different partners within the same area or country, I am doing that. There is no point going back and forth to China every single month.

– Whenever possible, I try to use online platforms like Skype instead of actual business meetings. This is something that I wrote about in another article of mine. I do not want to spend a lot of time flying around unless my physical presence somewhere is 100 % required.

2. Always go for direct flights

A friend of mine said her boss bought her a flight ticket from Stavanger (Norway) to Dortmund (Germany). She had to make two “pit stops” at different airport locations in Europe before she arrived, which was unnecessary.

Instead, she could have taken a direct airplane to either Cologne or München – and then booked a train to Dortmund. Boomer.

How can you check if there are any better solutions than stepping into different airplanes?

Open Google Maps. Take a look around the destination you are going to. If there are any other cities within 100 kilometers, I am positive that they got some sort of airport.

Also, note that it does not necessarily need to be within the same country. Many people fly to Berlin (Germany) and take the train over to Sczeczin (Poland) because the Berlin airport got a lot of more international flights.

3. Use public transport when you arrive

Waiting in line for a taxi at Shanghai Pudong Airport? Nah! No thanks!

I`m taking the Maglev high-speed train into town.

If I flew from the other side of the world, I refuse to pollute even more when I arrive. Also, the subway in China is not too uncomfortable if you hop on the first station of the ride. 🙂

4. If you plan to go on holiday far away, please go to an eco-friendly tourist destination

“Flight shame” might have been the big buzzword of 2019. However, “ecotourism” is hotter in 2020.

Several huge profiles and companies in the travel industry claim that consumers tend to

Egypt is one of the places that has struggled with overtourism in the recent years.

become more aware of their environmental footprint. We do no longer want to rent big polluting boats, fly to the other side of the world or spend our full holiday in a gigantic monster city.

And that’s good. Connecting with nature and supporting local people while traveling will make you feel better.

PS! I have written a couple of articles about ecotourism. This article is, by far, the best one. It features how certain popular tourist destinations are destroyed by mass tourism. It’s, for instance, heartbreaking to see the local people of Venice shooting fireworks at cruise ships in desperation. Or thousands of plastic bags flying around the mighty pyramids in Egypt.

5. Choose airline companies that take CO2 emissions seriously

When you fly long-distance flights, you very often have the option of choosing different airline companies. I know that you are already tired of my Oslo-Shanghai example, but these are the airlines that I can choose from:

– Scandinavian Airline System (SAS)
– KLM
– Finnair
– Germanwings
– Qatar Airlines

If you dig into what each of them to do “give back to climate science”, you will find that they operate in a very different way. Frankly, I believe that 99 % of all the airline companies are more into greenwashing than actually doing something for the environment. These are only two of many examples of newspaper articles claiming that certain airlines greenwash:

  1. Jetset (telegraph.co.uk)

2. KLM (Forbes US)

I could probably go on forever. Large airline companies feel the pressure to run some type of green marketing campaign. Some of them are great and well documented. Most of them are crap.

Last words

I would lie if I said that I did not smile a bit every time I heard the word “flight shame”. Not because I find it ridiculous. I love the word. It shows me that other people share my thought that it might be good to limit the number of flights you take on every year.

On the other side, I know that not everyone cares too much about their frequent flying habits. Even though more and more people are concerned about the environmental consequences of their everyday lives, we are still a minority.

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