Do you want to reduce flights in 2023? We asked the experts how to do it.

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 13 Min Read
origin 1Do you want an eco-sustainable travel solution? Here’s how to reduce flights in 2023 ©Left to right, clockwise: Catherine Livesley, Magdalena Heuwieser, Catherine Livesley, Flight Free UK

Could you go without flying?

Millions of people took to the skies this year, when COVID restrictions and testing rules were finally eased.

It’s good news for families and friends who have been torn apart by the closure of borders, but it’s bad news for the planet.

A round-trip economy class flight from London to New York emits around 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger, roughly the same amount the average person in Ghana produces in an entire year.

Avoiding airplane transport it is the single greatest action an individual can take to reduce their own ecological footprint. But if you’re used to hopping from flight to flight, it can feel like an overwhelming commitment.

But people all over the world are getting it done — and without the sacrifice and FOMO you might imagine.

RockedBuzz via Euronews Travel spoke to four seasoned travellers flight— free travelers who have stopped flying or cut it all the way — and still have amazing travel experiences.

Here’s how you can follow in their carbon-free footsteps.

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Magdalena Heuwieser, co-founder of Stay Grounded

origin 1Magdalena Heuwieser, co-founder of Stay Grounded, travels to the Canary IslandsMagdalena Heuwieser

Magdalena Heuwieser is passionate about climate justice in aviation.

In Europe, jumping on a plane seems like the norm. But that’s an illusion: about nine out of ten people in the world have never been on a airplane.

Horrified by this flight disparity, Heuwieser co-founded “Stay Grounded” in 2016.

The network is the umbrella for more than 170 campaign initiatives worldwide.

Have you stopped flying completely?

“I stopped flying in 2014 because I thought it probably wasn’t the best thing to do for the climate. I didn’t know the numbers then, but it seemed strange to me that I was responsible for so many emissions. I am lucky to have my family around me – I can reach them within hours train.”

Trip without extraordinary flight?

“For some years now I have wanted to visit a dear friend on the Canary Islands, but without flying there. So this spring, while pregnant, I took a longer break from work (using my accumulated overtime hours and vacation time). It took me four days to get to Gran Canaria train and ferry. I really enjoyed the trip! I spent three weeks visiting my friend and discovering the island, and then took even longer on my way back, visiting friends along the way in Portugal, Spain and France.

Traveling is about enjoying the journey, not just the destination.

What is your advice to people who want to reduce flying in 2023?

“I asked myself twice: is this really a journey that I have to take? Can’t I holiday closer to where I can get by train? We have so many beautiful places around…could I take more holidays in a row so that the trip can be accomplished by climate-friendly means? Traveling is about enjoying the journey, not just the destination.”

Catherine Livesley, former frequent flyer and founder of the No Fly Travel Club

origin 1Catherine Livesley, former frequent flyer and founder of No Fly Travel Club Catherine Livesley

Catherine Livesley was a super-frequent flyer, flying every few weeks for her busy work in the travel industry.

But when COVID impressed, she was fired and realized she was completely exhausted.

“It was the break I needed to reevaluate,” she says.

“Slowing down has given me a chance to see my lifestyle from a new perspective.”

He founded the No Fly Travel Club, a foster care organization sustainable travel.

“More than three short-haul return flights a year puts you in the top one per cent of frequent flyers globally, and this already generates around 8 per cent of UK emissions,” he says.

“Encouraging more travelers into this category seems crazy.”

Have you stopped flying completely?

“For the past 2 years I have made a pledge not to fly at all, however I have never said I will never fly again. This year I will travelling to South Africa to see family – something I have thought about for a long time. However I will not be flying to Europe yet (where trains can be used instead) and long haul travel will now be a very occasional investment for me every 5 years or so.

I would never judge anyone by flying or create blanket judgments for when it is acceptable to fly. This is an individual decision. I just hope people stop and think about what they are doing and why, if they really *need* that flight or if there might be an alternative.”

What is your advice to people who want to reduce flying in 2023?

“If your company is starting to take sustainability seriously, they may be willing to let you attend events virtually or travel by alternative means where possible.

There is also a scheme called Climate Perks where team members can earn an extra two days or vacation if they choose to low carbon content shipping method.

Of course I would recommend people to check it out Noflytravel. There are also classic resources like Man in Seat 61 and Interrail.eu which are always helpful.”

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Anna Hughes, the veteran no-fly traveler and founder of Flight Free UK

origin 1Anna Hughes and Sunita Soundur, who work at Flight Free UK. The organization encourages people to make an annual no-fly commitment. Flight Free UK

Anna Hughes stopped flying much earlierflight shame‘ has gone mainstream.

In 2009, the avid cycle tourer and traveler booked two long-haul trips China And Tanzania.

Then he saw “The Age of Stupid,” a documentary that questions humanity’s blind destruction of the planet.

“It really hit me. I realized that it is actually much bigger and much worse than I thought. And I need to do a lot more,” she says.

“I sold both of my flights, that’s it.”

She is the founder and director of Free flight to UK. Every year, thousands of people sign the organization’s “promise” and promise to stop flying for a year.

Have you stopped flying completely? Will you fly again?

“I will do it personally never get on a plane again. The same decision won’t work for everyone, but even if they get halfway or partway through, it will make a huge difference.

The IPCC recommends that to achieve our decarbonisation goals we should not exceed 2.3 tonnes of carbon each per year. So one flight could eat up your entire allowance.

Stand out from travel without a flight?

“You don’t have to travel far to have an authentic travel experience. My adventure of a lifetime was cycling along the coast of Great Britain. Everything you travel for – to find yourself, to get to know new cultures, to see new landscapes, to have a break – I had it all during that adventure. We are also incredibly lucky to have Europe at our doorstep.

What is your advice to people who want to reduce flying in 2023?

“You could take our no-fly pledge not to fly for a year. Yes, quitting flying can be difficult. It’s a sacrifice for some people. But it might be the best resolution you ever made.

Flight Free UK also offers a ‘free choice’ pledge, which you can tailor to suit your lifestyle, so you could either forgo flying for six months or commit to just taking one flight this year. On the other end of the spectrum, you could commit to never flying again.

Sunita Soundur, Social Media Manager at Flight Free UK

Sunita was flying from a young age. His parents are from Mauritius, a tiny island almost 10,000 km – and 12 hours by flight – from the United Kingdom.

“It’s very beautiful, but there are few options to get there without it to fly,” she says.

“I had been flying since the age of three, then when I got older I was flying by choice. I was a frequent flyer in my 20s, although I never considered myself a frequent flyer. It’s very easy to think of this as a common activity in the UK.

Then, in 2016, he logged his activities in a carbon calculator.

“I was shocked… I made a personal decision not to take more than one flight a year,” she says.

“I was one of those people who was like, ‘I’m not sure I can’t fly at all,’ but it seemed manageable.”

After a while, flying became “less desirable”. As of 2022, Sunita has not flown for four years.

Have you stopped flying completely? Will you fly again?

“I didn’t think I could do four years, but one year is manageable, it’s a short-term commitment. Now it’s been four years and I haven’t taken a flight.

“I have family in Mauritius. And so, to be honest, for me, the only reason I would ever get on a plane. Does that mean I will fly to Mauritius every year? No of course not. It’s been eight years since I’ve been back.

What is your advice to people who want to reduce flying in 2023?

“Taking the Flight Free UK pledge is a really good idea. I think a lot of people are quite worried about it, or hesitant to take it, and they’re not sure if they can. But they actually tend to be pleasantly surprised. There are so many great travel opportunities that don’t require flying.

Do you have to go completely free from flying?

For some people, going completely free fly not an option. You may need to travel for work or visit sick relatives on the other side of the world.

But any reduction in the number of flights you take is a positive step.

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