I just read Charlie Stross‘s rant on reducing his household’s carbon footprint. Summary: He and his wife can live a life of monastic discomfort, wearing moldy scratchy 10-year-old bamboo fiber jumpsuits and shivering in their flat – or, they can cut out one transatlantic flight per year and achieve the equivalent carbon footprint reduction.
I did a similar analysis back around 2007 or so and had the same result: I’ve got a relatively trim carbon footprint compared to your average first-worlder, except for the air travel that turns it into a bloated planet-eating monster too extreme to fall under the delicate term “footprint.” Like Charlie, I am too practical, too technophilic, and too hopeful to accept that the only hope of saving the planet is to regress to third world living standards (fucking eco-ascetics!). I decided that I would only make changes that made my life better, not worse – e.g., living in a walkable urban center (downtown Portland, now SF). But the air travel was a stumper. I liked traveling, and flying around the world for conferences is a vital component of saving the world through open source. Isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Two things happened that made me re-evaluate my air travel philosophy. One, I started a file systems consulting business and didn’t have a lot of spare cash to spend on fripperies. Two, I hurt my back and sitting became massively uncomfortable (still recovering from that one). So I cut down on the flying around the world to Linux conferences involuntarily.
You know what I discovered? I LOVE not flying around the world for Linux conferences. I love taking only a few flights a year. I love flying mostly in the same time zone (yay, West coast). I love having the energy to travel for fun because I’m not all dragged out by the conference circuit. I love hanging out with my friends who live in the same city instead of missing out on all the parties because I’m in fucking Venezuela instead.
Save the planet. Burn your frequent flyer card.