My Story: Six Years Without Flying

I haven’t boarded a single plane since 2012. While it’s not a bad balance, it’s not even close to being enough. Read now what’s on stake and what YOU can do.


This amazing realisation struck me this year: my last flight was Berlin–Moscow, January 2012.

And truth be told, I don’t remember missing a thing during the last five years.
I have always hated the crowded spaces, the bad air-con air, the whole taking off my shoes, being scanned in x-ray booths, paying fees for every tiny bit of extra comfort. Boo!

The magic of fast travel wasn’t lost on me, that’s true, but train rides have always felt more “organic” to me, more charming. Overnight business trips to Paris or Basel are among my favourite travel memories, and the Royal Scotsman is on my travel bucket list.

These days, we’re booking holidays in Europe, somewhere we can go by train or by car (yes, by car, we’re not that perfect after all); I’m reaching out to clients via email, Skype or FaceTime; and I go to industry events and trade fairs like the Biofach Vivaness in Nuremberg by train.

So, why did I decide to give up flying?


The objective of keeping global warming to below two degrees Celsius is widely known: CO2 emissions must be completely halted, worldwide, and we don’t have a lot of time. Everybody must contribute.

Not only the latest report of the German Federal Environmental Agency listed flights as the major CO2 offender (among car trips, housing heating and animal source foods), it’s a well-known fact.

But why the two degree mark? And what happens if it’s surpassed?

The two degree mark was first suggested by a Yale economist in the late seventies, and later set by the 2016 Paris Agreement. Scientists say, surpassing the mark will change everything we know: from rising sea levels to massive wildfires and super-droughts, from extreme weather to mass extinctions, melting of the polar ice, decreasing crops, fresh water shortage, contamination of air, food, water… The WHO expects 2.6 million deaths per year globally as a direct result of climate-related rise in illnesses, mental stress, climate stress and environmental catastrophes.

Recent studies/ sources FYI:
Study „Less than 2 °C warming by 2100 unlikely“
Study “Committed warming inferred from observations“
WHO 2016 statement “An estimated 12.6 million deaths each year are attributable to unhealthy environments”

So the consequence should be crystal clear for all of us.
It isn’t.

And let’s be brutally honest.
We all know it: our plant-based, local and seasonal food and our reusable coffee mugs and our ethical wardrobe maintained through reuse-repair-recycle mean nothing as soon as we board a long-haul flight. An example: if I took a flight from Berlin to LA, my personal CO2 footprint only would cater for 5 square meters of Arctic ice to melt. And you have to consider all the other passengers – and the crew!

But the hype of seeing exotic locations is stronger than ever today: travel blogs are the new shizzle, and digitally enhanced – a couple analogue years ago you’d say “glossy” – pictures and videos of amazing beaches, vibrant cities and luxury hotels are flooding in, day in, day out. Ironically, flood is also the consequence of said two degrees Celsius. As a society, we’re collectively sawing the branch we’re sitting on with each flight booked. And once the figurative branch is off, there might be literally no land under our feet anymore.

Should you give up flying for good?
The real, no-bull answer is YES.

But is it doable?


Even if you give up flying for leisure completely – and I would applaud you for that –, of course many of us are forced to fly for work. Even environmentalists book long-haul flights to speak to audiences on another continent in order to spread the message.

So what CAN you do?

1. See if you can choose telepresence.
Technically, Skype, FaceTime and more professional grade videocomms come at a cost themselves, but they’re a much lesser devil compared to booking two 3-hour flights to have an one hour meeting.
Also, if you’re concerned that you “look silly” on video, I have a handy guide to looking good on Skype that I’m going to update soon for high definition video.

2. Check your destination and how you can get there best.
For European travels, the EcoPassenger tool allows you to compare the environmental impact of your journey.

3. Chance for corporate change.
Your company can optimise travel best practices for the employees by creating long-haul flight limitations, by implementing better telepresence solutions, by spreading awareness among customers and partners – not unlike that old email signature asking you to save the trees!

4. Optimise your personal CO2 footprint.
While it’s a bit naïve to think you can crush stuff with your left hand and then support something else with the right, there are little things you can do. Such as: use CO2 compensation services (the best service in Germany is Atmosfair but there are more platforms, for example MyClimate), consume less, support reforestation programmes – that’s why sustainable palm oil is relevant as well, optimise your power consumption. Even using Ecosia, the reforestation-supporting search engine, for all your online searches will help a little bit. Bid farewell to fast fashion – slow fashion rocks hard in 2017, like never before.

5. Think forward.
We can’t afford the luxury of blind consumerism anymore. Apply the happiness-inducing principles of mindfulness to all your bookings, purchases – and votes.
Consider each product’s life cycle, longevity, and meaning.
Choose greener companies and service providers.
Don’t support politicians on the payroll of the big food, chemical or car lobby.


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)