We’re tired of feeling bad. It seems to be a choice between not caring about green issues, or caring and just finding that we feel guilty, naughty or just plain badly informed about quite a lot of stuff. Negative environmentalism is putting us right off caring.
Of course, the term positive environmentalism has already been poached, and we’re just a pretty little magazine about having fun, so we’re not about to start fighting over definitions and categorisations. What we want is just plain positivity.
While we’re busy feeling bad, it’s largely down to being preached at, and possibly preaching at people in return. It’s also down to not really knowing the answers, and suspecting that there are some answers no one knows yet, that half of the solutions bring more problems (making food crops into biofuel, shipping paper to China for recycling, ‘green’ nuclear power) and the problems we are struggling with are ones that are totally new to the world.
One of the favourite topics of the sanctimonious is holiday time. Of course, flying makes holidays an obvious target, but it must also be down to the fact that free time is seen as luxury, extra, unnecessary – nice, but not important, and therefore the first up against the wall when we’re looking to feel bad. Well, we say bobbins to that (only we say it ruder). Free time is the most important. If we’re talking about caring about the world, having a healthier kinship with it and maybe, you know, saving it, the first step, logically, positively, should surely be ENJOYING IT.
That’s not to say there aren’t things that can be tweaked, and this magazine is all about that – tweaking. First of all, we’re very pro doorstep – we reckon that there’s a lot to do here in the UK that is even more fun because it seems like a bit of a surprise. Swimming with sharks, for example, or riding llamas. And if it’s nearby we think it should be done a lot; free time should be a hefty chunk of life, not what’s left over when everything else is done.
We also know that we don’t need to have our hands held when it comes to having adventures. Lots of what is so good about travelling is seeing, experiencing and tasting new things, and we know that you can do that on your own street. So we want to make the commute into a voyage, lunch into an experience, a chat at the bus stop into a cultural experience. Well, until we’re tired and it’s raining, but intentions are still worth having.
Believe it or not, we’re not exactly anti-flying. Apart from that we don’t want to be fundamentalist anything, and we fly around sometimes, we also think that the world is too amazing not to have a look at, and sometimes that means flying places. We just think that things need to be balanced. If you really really want to go, and the other options are too expensive, too longwinded, or you get train-sick, fly! Have a great time, stay as long as you can, immerse yourself in the time you have and drink it all in. If you want to offset, do, but we believe in this for a carbon economy – pay for your considered and educated carbon extravagance with sheer enjoyment, rather than paying off sins with guilty money.
Travelling is always going to feature high on the list of oil-eating exercises. This magazine is packed with suggested journeys across and around the UK, but there are also some longer trips – cycling in Transylvania, deserting the UK by ferry in all directions, climbing in Italy. We’ve given the overland options, but sometimes these are going to take days – from London to the Transylvania start point takes 43 hours! It’ll be a stunning 43 hours, but maybe not one you can afford, compared to three hours and ten minutes in the air.
These choices are, of course, up to you. The carbon offsetting practice has problems of its own, but is one way to get up to speed with thinking of carbon as our own responsibility. If you fancy offsetting flights, the best organisation (according to the Ethical Consumer magazine) is Atmosfair.
Another option is to look at your overall carbon use, and decide yourself what has priority in your life. The government target is for each person to reduce their carbon footprint by 4%, and this can be done in a multitude of ways in the home (changing the darn lightbulbs to low energy will hit that 4% in one go! Why is it always the lightbulbs?).
Short haul flights are worse for two reasons; firstly because there are more options so it is less defensible, and secondly because it takes considerably more power to get the plane up than to keep it going along. But in overall carbon, long haul flights are way, way thirstier, and are chucking out the emissions at a higher altitude which makes them three times more damaging than the same emissions at short haul height (think 20 tonnes per person to Australia and back, versus two to Spain and back!).
Closer to home
Your options in the UK (we hope you’re not flying to Newquay) are going by train or by car. Based on Defra figures that take into account the average number of people on a train and the average thirstiness of cars, a car with four people in it comes out the same as going by train.
All of this very personal carbon maths does irritate people who feel that industry and the government ought to lead by example, not make it into a consumer conscience issue, but industry emissions are lowering, whereas individual emissions are rising. If you are interested to know, have a look at the carbon calculator at www.resurgence.org – you have to put in a lot of details about your whole life, and it tells you how you’re looking. The UK average consumption per person per year is 10 tonnes, and you may well be surprised by how low yours is already. As Mukti Mitchell, the inventor of this calculator, is keen to point out, “Even if you come out at 30 tonnes, it’s not a reason to feel guilty. You have to start where you are.”Thanks to Mukti for these figures! You can download his book on all of these issues from www.lowcarbonlifestyle.org.