Sin of sustainability | Wanderlust and Compensation
this post is also available in GERMAN
The sin of sustainability: Wanderlust
This year is different. Fridays For Future got rolling, the Green party became kinda ‘big-tent party’ here in Germany and I questioned more and more how sustainable my life actually is… It was only a matter of time until my travel behaviors got in the line of fire.
At the beginning of July there was that huuuuge ‘camp for climate’ in Nuremberg. I just couldn’t go there with a clean conscience. Demonstrating vigorously against climate change and then, just a few weeks later, getting cheerfully on the plane to Bali. rataplan: double standard deluxe.
However, I’m still joining the demos as often as I can, I live 95% vegan (Cowspiracy brainwashed, hehe), always take my jute bags with me for shopping (or developed some good strategies for buying loose food, balancing those grape vines, use that ‘tomato t-shirt transport’-strategy or just consume the stuff right in front of the store (my personal favorite)), I buy my clothes and stuff mainly at flea markets and compared to a few years ago, my whole attitude has become sustainable.
I don’t even waste anymore words on discussing about topics like the infamous ‘conservative Schnitzel’, which has ‘always been there’, fossil-like, for all times a fixed part of the range of the grocery store.
And now? BooM, 6,440 kg Co2 for three and a half weeks of holiday pleasure. But yes, right now I am in the process of loading these two adult elephants of CO2 on my personal ‘climate account’.
However, I can not believe that my efforts the rest of the year are meaningless. This article is not intended to be kinda justification, it’s born out of an interest to see how much various factors influence the ecological footprint.
Basic-Facts for 1 year
Co2 budget / year *: 2300kg CO2
* in order to achieve the impossible goal of just 2 ° C global warming until 2050
My flight: + 6440 kg CO2
With a plant-based diet you can save about 670kg of Co2 (2t greenhouse gases in total). Sounds like a lot, but seems somehow unimportant, when you think about the impact of one whole year of ‘resignation’, compared to environmental effects of flying. Nevertheless, there is no more sustainable diet and the ethical and health arguments speak for itselves as well …
SEASONAL over LOCAL
Anyone who buys locally -not just food- saves (sometimes absolutely absurd roundabout) transport routes and thus CO2. Much more important than shopping locally is watching the seasons of the fruits and veggies. For example, tomatoes bought regionally, but in winter, have a CO2 consumption of about 2.5kg / kg, whereas Spanish tomatoes only consume about 1kg Co2 / kg. (reasons: necessity of artificially strong heating, environmental adaptation of the ground…)
I also love that CO2 calculator, which shows you the exact Co2 consumption for the food on your plate
Refusing one plastic bag saves about 120 grams of CO2. If we calculate with the annually average 70 used plastic bags in Germany, that’s only 840g saved CO2. Of course, there’s more plastic than just these little baggies. One kg of plastic wastes about 6kg of CO2. The average German wastes about 38kg/plastic per year: that’s about 228kg CO2 , just through plastic packaging!
*but also here: the littering of our seas and the deaths of sea animals and birds have nothing to do with the CO2 consumption, but are important as well.
btw, jute bags are just sustainable if they are used 30 to even 150 times, depending on their size. I also wash mine, by hand, because otherwise they shrink like (barbie-jutes)
bike vs car:
Born out of all the struggles with the public transport (hella late, hella expensive), I drive for 3 years now as often as possible by bike to school (and actually anywhere else as well). The daily 20km route together with the approximately 200 days of school are 4000km; When you compare it with the emissions of our car (about 200g Co2 / km) that saves about 800kg of CO2 per year.
train vs car:
Going by public transport there’s a CO2 expenditure of only about 14,5g CO2/ km per person. Instead of the sporty way to school I would have a 58kg CO2 expenditure per year (saves still 742kg compared to the car)
Okaaay, I really like to stroll around and look for treasures from ancient times, as well as making bargains:) But the environment is at least as happy as I am! As long as you buy ‘local vintage’, so no special imported and extra chemically bleached stuff *cough* Urban Outfitters *cough* *cough *.
We could say that the ecological effort and resources of the production will be divided by each hand the piece passes. (second, third…hand)
Anyways, one kilo saves up to 3.5 kg of CO2 compared to new bought material. But even if that sounds like kinda invitation for an escalation à la flea market, the best and most sustainable way of shopping is still a conscious consumption (applies to all points above) 🙂
Yep, sounds fantamaziiiing and there’re so many ways to smaller the ecological footprint.
But let’s be honest: You won’t be able to erase those ecological ‘sins’ like flights (again: 6.5 tons). It’s not possible. Not even close to that. That research was shocking and even painful for me. I would have loved to read that nibbling on my veggies sticks with hummus is enough and I could clean my bad conscience with flea market purchases. ‘I can afford that, I’m doing so much the other times of the year’. -Fiddlesticks.
How am I even able to sleep, with such a fat footprint full of carbon dioxide? I don’t know. On the one hand, of course, I look at all those 200 other passengers on the plane … nope, on those thousands of others at the entire airport. But there’s the fossil schnitzel again: somebody has to stop first.
On the other hand, traveling – in my opinion – also pushes your inner growth. You get to know new cultures, but also learn a lot about yourself. And for me, but apparently also for many others, that has an extremely high value. That’s what I personally realized on my previous trip. (and yes, I would say that’s my inner small to medium-sized egotistical pig)
But would I have also found that out with traveling by train to the German Sea? I honestly don’t know, but it’s definitely on my bucket list 🙂
Did you fly this summer? What do you think about that complex topic?
more thoughts: atmosfair & co
Several companies came up serving people like me who deal with this conflict of conscience. Their system is easy: The CO2 emitted during the flight is ‘compensated’ with environmental projects. A nice idea. But paying money for a good conscience? Reminds me somehow of medieval letters of indulgence. Better than giving a shit about that flying-environment-problem? Definitely! A carte blanche for flying excessively around? Nope. Especially low-budget ‘climate compensation programs’ e.g. from Ryanair, which ‘compensate the flight’ with a few cents. In my opinion, that’s just a detox of image and bad conscience.