My Big Eco-Sin

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day I was reminded by Erika that today is Blog Action Day, a day on which 15,000 bloggers will be writing to their 12 million users about the environment.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to confess my big eco-sin. Throughout my adult life, I’ve lived–compared to the average Canadian–a relatively environmentally friendly life. I’ve lived in small apartments, rarely used a car, don’t eat red meat (and try to always choose organic chicken), recycled and so forth. These are small gestures that happen to coincide with my preferred lifestyle, and they’re not going to change the world.

However, I love to travel. I’ve flown a lot in the past decade–probably around 100 individual flights. And, as you probably know, air travel is a beast for climate change. There are other high-impact elements of travel, but flights are the worst. Plus there’s a compelling economic argument for travel bolstering economies in the developing world.

Tickets to Guilt Avoidance Town

Recently we’ve started buying carbon credits, but those are really tickets to Guilt Avoidance Town more than anything else. Likewise, I regularly donate to the David Suzuki Foundation, but that hardly excuses the air travel, does it?

What to do? Besides fly less, there are no easy answers. It’s going to take decades for airplanes to get more eco-friendly. That’s particularly tricky considering our home base in Vancouver. It’s a long way to anywhere from there, you know? One strategy I do hope to apply is squishing more activities under one flight. So, instead of going to Europe twice in a year, we go once, stay twice as long, and take trains and ferries between our sundry destinations. Given that this Malta experiment has worked out pretty well in terms of working remotely, that seems viable.

The other thing I can do is act (to use Andrea’s phrase) as a lobbyist and a change agent to convince other people, companies and governments to live greener. This gets into the whole Stacies thing, but that’s really the only way I’m going to offset a lifetime’s worth of air travel.

What’s your biggest eco-sin?


  1. not sure if it would be viable, but how about a remote-attendance option for Northern Voice ’08? I plan to fly to Vancouver for it, causing God to drown some unicorns for me, but there might be others who would benefit from not having to burn petrofuels to get to Vancouver…

  2. Mine is flying too. I’m sitting in an airport writing this. I should have turned down this trip, ecologically speaking, but a free trip to Barcelona was too much to pass up.

    So there’s a whole locus of vanity, selfishness (perhaps motivated by a less loathsome desire to experience another culture, but whatever) and desire in my eco-sin — great concept, BTW.

    There is a professor at UBC, Max Cameron, who apparently insists on carbon credits for all events he is involved with organizing, and he is now limiting himself to two trips per year (he could do much, much more on somebody elses dime, to some fab places). Evidently, when he gets an invite that exceeds his limit, he responds with willingness to participate remotely.

    I think your concept of longer and fewer trips makes sense, and I suspect in the peak oil era more people will adopt it. I hope I’ll be one of them.

    As an aside, I think I am nurturing the only decent business idea I’ve ever had in my entire life — involving less offensive and damaging travel, corporate retreats, trains, and a few other wrinkles. But I have no idea how to move it to reality.

  3. Hrm. I occasionally burn down rainforests to build coal-fired plants, but besides that…

    Actually, it’s hard to think about what my greatest eco-sin is. I walk to work, my wife either takes a bus or an aquabus. We don’t own a car. I’ve been on a plane once in the past 7 years. Maybe my washer/dryer, or dishwasher?

  4. I eat meat (red meat very rarely, though chicken I do) and when I am in other countries (Mexico specifically) I drive. But in Vancouver, I don’t drive, and I try to keep a low ecological footprint.

  5. I’m giggling at your sentence saying it’s a long way to anywhere from Vancouver. Dude, I’m living on the 55th parallel now, five hours north of Edmonton.

    THAT’s a long way from anywhere. Seriously, I live in the middle of nowhere.

  6. My biggest eco-sin is wine. Being of French origin, I find it difficult to have a meal without a glass of wine. (That’s my excuse anyway.) I buy a lot of BC wines but they tend to be much more expensive than wines from Australia or South America. So I buy quite a few bottles of these and I’m aware of the fact that their transportation is very wasteful. I’m very good at buying locale produce, but I just can’t seem to be able to do that with wine. Hopefully the quality of wines in tetra pack will solve this dilema.

  7. If you travel by air, you may as well just give up even trying to pretend to care about the environment. Air travel is one of the worst acts of polluting that an individual can be a part of (next to driving a car frequently of course). I read somewhere that personal air travel makes up almost 20% of Canada’s per household greenhouse emissions. Compare that with things like using appliances and lighting which constitue a measily 1%.

    I mean, here you are continually spouting off about using the right kind of light bulbs and such yet you fly all over the globe?!? Surely it’s people like yourself who are by far a much worse polluter than the guy who doesn’t recycle his beer bottles yet never leaves his home town.

    Please, everyone. For the love of this planet, STOP TRAVELLING!

  8. It is not FLYING that creates all this greenhouse gas, but rather it is all the TRAVELING that we do.

    Flying is the most efficient way to travel (in terms of GHG/person/km). A person who drives to and from work 50km every day, will travel about 13000km in a year, and in the process release a lot more CO2 than someone who walks to work everyday, and takes a single 13000km round trip by air every year.

    Yes, it is important to reduce the number of flights we take. But it is equally important to make sure you live close enough to where you work to be able to walk to work, or at least make sure you take public transport.

  9. Darren, thanks for the plug! (I see you, too, linked to their image. Sigh… who knew they’d delete it?)

    I haven’t flown much in my lifetime so my biggest eco-sin is probably a combination of adoration for tropical fruits/veggies, chocolate, computer use and bad dish washing habits. I’m getting to the point where I feel guilty about throwing anything out, asking to be picked up from the bus stop (it’s TransLink’s fault), and leaving the outside light on all day. At least my complete rejection of chemical cleaners and cosmetics has proven to be both easy and beneficial!

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