Zero Waste and traveling by plane

There is hardly one subject in the zero waste scene which is that controversial. It is flying and traveling in general.

Some say, well, Zero Waste is about landfill, reducing trash, consuming less plastic, so it doesn’t end up in the ocean and destroys it ecosystem.

Others say, nope, Zero Wasters should see the whole picture and account for their CO2 emissions as well.

The second opinion is a typical „whataboutism“ — the urban dictionary defines it like this:

“When you deflect criticism by pointing out flaws in your opponent, specifically using the phrase “what about x?” This is an attempt to excuse you from changing you behavior by painting your opponent as a hypocrite.“ So we should accept that waste management is one environmental issue — reducing CO2 emissions is another. But.

Here comes the but.

A lot of people start with zero waste and move on to change their whole way of live and behavior towards a more ecological way of living. The Zero Waste movement is a sexy and low entry point for these issues and this is what I love about it. They educate themselves and others, write about it and change their behavior. As soon as one starts learning about sustainability you stumble upon co2 emissions as a way to measure your impact. One learns what effect they have on the environment. It depends on each of us to decide which environmental issue is more important. My personal focus changed from landfill and waste to climate change in the past years. I have been into zero waste since 2014 — since we opened the shop. In this time I have learned a lot and also that flying is by far the worst thing on a co2 emissions scale that you can do. Eating meat, driving cars, using fossil energy — is all behind it. Recycling trash and avoiding it, has even less effect. It doesn’t mean we should stop zero waste, but get our priorities straight and reflect. My priorities changed because I realized landfill has an effect one some ecological issues, but global warming has an effect on every single being on this planet.

Foto von Katja Vogt , Schaf von Viertel/ Vor

What could or should change — from my point of view:

  1. Most Zero Wasters travel for pleasure and holidays, some, like the big ones, for educating, giving talks, reading out of their books and so on. It would be a more sustainable way to decline invitations and a world tour and to encourage the local scene to step up. Now when I refuse a speaking gig or another invitation I try to suggest another speaker — and a local one. I know it is part of their career and how they make a living, but it is in contrary if they try to live a environmental friendly life.
  2. Using atmosfair or myclimate or others and at least pay your co2 contributions- offset your flight . Even if it is only a drop of water on a hot stone. Promote these services.
  3. Reduce flying and traveling at all. Part of the minimalist and ZW philosophy is the „buy less, do more“ — but even this is part of modern consumerism. I am reading „Sapiens” from Yuval Noah Harari right now and he is stating, that it is all part of the modern, 20th and 21st century consumerism meets romantic way, which is sold to us: we have to travel and expand our mind to reflect better on our selves. Make experiences. Well, newsflash: we don’t have to. We don’t have to go to Bali to learn more about ourselves, the Baltic Sea can be fine as well or even your balcony.
  4. Use the goddamn train or buses. Paris isn’t that far from Berlin, nor Portugal, take more time, travel slower. People have been doing this for centuries. If trains are too expensive: book in advance and look for tickets on sale.
  5. If you travel, especially far away, stay as long as possible. Go to Bali, but stay there for more than two weeks. Make it worth these co2 emissions.
  6. Talk to others about the impact of flying, vote for parties who want the same as you and petition to change the subsidize of flying (it is ridiculously high).

Again, I will never tell anybody what to do — I can’t influence people like that. But I can judge -knowing that will not help either. This is just a thought, let it sink in. Curious about your thoughts and comments.