There Is No Such Thing as Sustainable Travel

I’m a terrible person. About a dozen times a year (or more) I hop on a plane and fly somewhere. Sometimes this is for work, sometimes it’s to visit family, and sometimes it’s just because I like to go places.

And my desire to go places is killing the planet.

There really isn’t two ways about it, unfortunately. And while I do use carbon offsets and I do eat a vegan diet (which cuts the standard carbon footprint in half), I’m still doing more harm than good.

And I'm still doing more harm than the average human.

Flying is terrible for the planet. It’s one of the worst things a person can do regarding their climate footprint (having children, owning a car, and eating meat are some others). And while I don’t own a car of have kids, I’m still doing a number on the climate.

And that’s not ok.

Last year I remember seeing a blogger who had flown over 100 flights that year. 100! I thought that was a bit extreme (to put it politely), but bringing up the disastrous consequences of those flights didn't seem to be socially acceptable; there just doesn’t seem to be enough people bringing attention to the consequences of travel — either in general, or towards bloggers especially.

We bloggers often paint travel as the cure for all woes. We poke and prod and plaster shitty Helen Keller quotes all over social media until people's FOMO takes over and they book a flight to some Insta-worthy destination. Travel has never been easier, which is great when it comes to cross-cultural connections, but none of us are really talking about the consequences of those travels. Or, rather, not enough of us are.

So I’m calling us out.

Because excessive flying is not ok.

Of course, we can make improvements as we travel. We can refuse to use single-use plastic, we can not eat meat, and we can only support ethical tourism, but the fact of the matter is these are just drops in a bucket. Important drops, but drops nonetheless.

Sustainable travel, at present, doesn’t exist. And it won’t unless we start making changes and demanding changes. We need to change how we travel. We need to change how we eat. We need to change how we interact with animals. We need to put pressure on the airline industry to make their services sustainable. And we need to put pressure on bloggers to grow the fuck up and start being mindful of their carbon footprints.

I’m lucky that I live in Sweden because I fly Norwegian the most, and they have one of the most fuel-efficient fleets in the world. But that's not enough. Not at all.

So, what do we do? Is the alternative just staying home, giving up globetrotting adventures and deep dives into other cultures? How do we weigh the benefits of cross-cultural exchanges against the measureable damage of climate change? How to we justify our passion to see and connect and explore in the face of environmental destruction?

I wish I had an answer. But I don’t. I just know we all need to do more.

We need to demand more from the airline industry. We need to demand more from travel bloggers. And we need to demand more of ourselves.

We are all responsible for the environment — at home and abroad. It’s about time we accept the weight of that fact and start accordingly.