Can environmentalists fly on vacation?

Unbelievable: Did you catch your fellow vegan with a plastic bottle that day? Or is there a vegetarian you know that flies by plane? So much inconsistency… it’s human. A personal comment on setbacks in environmental protection – and why not give up anyway.

Summer is getting hotter and hotter due to climate change. Every few months, climate researchers urgently warn of the dangers involved in an explosion of greenhouse gases. And every Friday, young people walk through major cities in order to protect the climate. In short: Exceptional circumstances have prevailed years ago that have long since become normal for us.

However, our daily lives have changed: we think about our environmental footprint, and we take cloth bags with us when we go shopping. Everywhere we see ads for climate-neutral products, meat alternatives, and vegan cosmetics. And one thing about flying and eating meat: While both are still popular and enough people do them without ever thinking about it again, the reputation is getting worse.

bad F word

I also haven’t eaten meat in years and use public transportation or ride my bike, and in the supermarket I try to buy organic, regional or at least unpackaged foods as possible. I know something about plastic in the oceans and climate change. However, I will travel in the summer – by plane.

Here it is: the bad word. Airplanes of course are climate killers. CO2 steel slingshot, which is absurdly supported. I know that one flight will recalculate the hard-earned climate back to shoddy state in one fell swoop. According to the Federal Environment Agency, 284 grams of greenhouse gases flow from turbines into the atmosphere for every kilometer traveled, with the value fluctuating dramatically depending on the aircraft model and airline. If I travel from Munich to Vigo in Spain, for example, I am responsible for emitting about 490 (!) kilograms of carbon dioxide (source).

Even though I know that, I’m going to get on a plane in June – and thus willfully promote climate change. but why? Mental gag? Did the pilot bribe me? Or is the climate in the end not as important to me as I always claim?

Even cheap air travel has its price

It’s been three years since I last rode an airplane and swore I’d never do it again. Definitely: Air travel was also eliminated in 2020 and 2021 because the risk of contracting the coronavirus was considered particularly high. So it was easy to convince the people I was traveling with about rail travel and road trips in the area. But now the infection numbers are lower, and my friend and a number of other people in our circle of friends have been invited to a wedding in Spain near the border with Portugal. Our close friends are getting married and we definitely don’t want to miss this event. But how will we get to Spain?

I honestly tried. Research trains to Barcelona, ​​from Munich to Strasbourg, Strasbourg to Paris, from Paris to Barcelona and from Barcelona to the small town where the wedding takes place. Searched bus connections (duration: 1 day 11 hours 35 minutes). I was wondering if a road trip across Europe could be less complicated. I have planned where to stay on the way, how many more days we better plan. But my plan didn’t convince anyone – if I’m honest, it seemed like a huge effort to me.

Of course, I would also have the option of taking the train or the long-distance bus on my own, or forgoing the trip altogether. In terms of CO2 emissions, with the bus, I would be nearly ten times the distance with the plane. But I succumbed to the temptation of an uncomplicated journey. Enter – exit – finish. After all, Skyscanner & Co. didn’t warn me. that several hundred kilograms of greenhouse gases will accompany me on my journey. They are invisible, but I can obviously feel their weight since I booked the ticket.

Am I no longer allowed to go to the organic market?

Can you just take a leave of absence from a green conscience? I certainly don’t think so.

But does my trip really make me a hypocrite? Am I no longer allowed to go to the organic market, should I replace the oat milk in my coffee with milk again? Or tofu sausage with pork sausage?

Also no. Because my constant efforts don’t get worse just because I failed at one of them, this particular journey.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to act correctly. And when you’re on vacation, few people think about sustainability. Especially now, after two long years of the spread of Corona, as many have given up long-distance travel. But the desire to travel is now stronger: it is not for nothing that bookings for air travel are almost steadily higher than those for 2019 for several months according to the German Travel Association (DRV) in a weekly comparison.

Of course, there are also role models who set a good example. Who didn’t like Greta Thunberg when she crossed the Atlantic on a catamaran in 2019? Lots of consistency deserves all the respect. But liking a role model and doing the same thing are two different things.

But why do we act against our principles at all, even though we know better?

Environmental protection is more than just coffee without a plastic cap

Living a more environmentally and climate friendly life is a challenge. Those who dispense with takeaway coffee and the slice at lunchtime are off to a good start – and they can be proud of it.

Consistently reducing carbon dioxide emissions involves our entire lifestyle. Suddenly the shopping cart becomes burdensome because it is full of responsibility, the road to the city becomes a sporting challenge, and “order fast online” is no longer an option.

That is why it is easy for many people to take small steps towards sustainability: for example, organic shopping or regular use of public transportation. But those who set themselves higher goals – for example, plan to do without meat or plastic from now on – will have to endure setbacks. The environment has not fallen from the sky yet.

My conclusion: even those who try to make mistakes

My move is more dangerous than a sausage sandwich during Lent or a takeaway coffee because you forgot your thermos cup. Yes: It’s bad that I fly. Do I want leniency here? number

Then what am I? So if you experience a setback, if you find yourself not behaving perfectly – you shouldn’t lose heart. And above all: don’t go back to old patterns. Because it helps the environment less.

The important thing is not to leave it at that. to learn from. I’ll try to do better next time. Those who approach things more flexibly will often find better travel links – a €9 ticket in particular will provide great options for climate-friendly travel in the coming months. And even if you want to go far, there is no need to use the plane. On my next vacation, I’ve already chosen a train route, from Munich you can get to Paris by TGV in less than 6 hours…


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