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Sunita, UK

I love to travel. I understand the joy and experiences gleaned from travelling far and wide, but knowing the devastating impact of flying on the environment is more than enough incentive for me to cut down. I couldn’t keep flying to beautiful, interesting places knowing that getting there was damaging the future of the environments I was seeing. Flying cheaply and frequently for leisure is a privilege but not one I wish to use at the cost of local people, wildlife and our vital, complex ecosystems.

In 2019, instead of taking 5 return flights for cheap city breaks (as many people do), I discovered the beauty of Pembrokeshire and Cardiff, Edinburgh, Northumberland, the Cotswolds, and Brighton. I found endless empty beaches, silent nights in remote AirBnbs and clean country air. These small trips fuelled a passion I’d not felt before to explore more of the UK, where previously I‘ve undervalued and underestimated how much each area has to offer.

The UK is much bigger than we realise, and it can be very easy to forget, but if you go looking, you too can find wild horses, vast forests, and breathtaking viewpoints offering fresh perspectives and a true sense of escapism. Adventure and beauty awaits you, and it’s just around the corner.

Wherever you call home, it’s easy to take where you live for granted, but I’d recommend everyone to explore a little closer to home, and I’m sure you’ll feel a deeper connection to your local land by going out and experiencing it. Just as I was, you might be surprised at how much you’ll enjoy it!

Sunita Soundur
London

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Dan, USA

I calculated my carbon footprint in 2019 and found that 85% of my footprint came from flying. That sealed the deal. October 6, 2019 was the last time I flew in an airplane. And I plan on never flying again.

The climate crisis is an existential threat to all living things on this planet. So what do we have to do? We must stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible. One way to do that is to stop flying. I have chosen to live a low-carbon lifestyle because I understand the scale and the severity of the climate crisis. The climate is crumbling before our very eyes. So what do we do in a crisis? Act.

Furthermore, flying is inherently a justice issue. Rich people fly. Poor people can not. Rich people pollute the most. Poor people pay the climate consequences first and worst. Those facing the most extreme effects of the climate crisis are people of color, indigenous people, women, children, and those living in low-income communities.. Flying is not only a climate justice issue. It’s also a social justice and a racial justice issue.

I understand that I have many domains of privilege. And it is my responsibility to take action simply because I can.

What will your legacy be?

Dan Castrigano
Teacher, Connecticut, USA

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Siân, UK

I am lucky that this is quite an easy one for me. In the 1970s, while train travel was still the default way of travelling in Europe, I read quite a bit about the environment and decided never again to fly. Because of the relative costs, I have probably had fewer holidays abroad than friends in a similar income bracket; maybe once every few years rather than a few times a year, and mainly to France. Once we travelled by train to Poland, once by train and ferry to Morocco and on another occasion to Istanbul. For the holiday of a lifetime, after my husband and I retired, we travelled by freighter and train to America, where we also covered thousands of miles by train. I emphasise that this is over the course of a lifetime. But we have no regrets and the most amazing memories.

Siân Charnley
Bristol, UK

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Elisabeth, Greece

I have pledged to stay flight free in 2021 out of respect for the environment.

I started living a flight free life in 2019 and although I have missed traveling, I don’t regret it at all. I will keep living like this because I have taken so many planes since my childhood right up to when I was 32 years old that it makes me feel guilty. I can’t keep traveling like this if I want to call myself an ecologist and if I want my actions to align with my values.

In 2017 I was already a vegan environmental anti-natalist (the top 2 ways to minimize your CO2 footprint), but then I read about the devastating effects of the aviation industry on the environment and I felt horrible with myself for travelling so often by plane. Since then I have only taken a plane once, in 2018 to go to Portugal, and I arranged to carbon offset my flight as a way to minimize the damage. But it felt like cheating my values. And I decided not to do it again.

In 2019, I was flirting with the idea of going to Austria but Greta Thunberg’s life choices reminded me of what my values were. I said to myself «If that teenager is pledging flight free, who has certainly not seen the world as you have been able to do by now, then you must rethink your priorities». And so, I didn’t go.

At the beginning of 2020 I took my dogs and my cat and drove all the way to Spain. It was a way for me to see the world again, and my intention was to move there to live. But the pandemic changed everything – no friend would come for a visit out of fear of getting stuck there due to Covid-19, and as I could not afford to go back to Greece by car & boat, with my pets, once each year, I decided I would come back and live in Greece again. I came back because I don’t want to betray my values ever again.

Integrity is choosing courage over comfort.

Elisabeth Dimitras, 34
MSc Biodiversity Conservation, Researcher / Activist, Greece

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Katherine, USA

Considering the urgency of the climate crisis and the necessity to halt carbon emissions immediately for the sake of safeguarding biodiversity and our ecosystems, there is no need (or time) to attribute blame for climate change or wallow in guilt. By being a part of the Flight Free 2021 campaign, we can have a different message: when individuals join together and shun air travel, industry and the government will need to help deliver solutions. This includes more efficient and affordable ground transport and the eventual electrification of air travel. For now, one significant way to feel content with one’s environmental impact is to avoid emitting the tons of CO2 that accompany air travel.

Katherine Leswing
New Hampshire, USA

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Jonas, Slovenia

I pledge to be flight free for as long as the climate needs. Many people say that this is quite radical. For me it was the most pragmatic choice, once I had decided to contribute to solving the climate crisis. To make it clear from the start, I think that the impact we can have with our individual lifestyle choices is very limited (policy makers, where are you?). And no, I do not want to think about the climate in every consumption or lifestyle decision … way too tiring. That is why not flying is the most pragmatic thing to do. In order to make up for one transatlantic return flight I would have to save many thousands of plastic bags. This is not to say that I justify carbon-intensive behaviours with staying on the ground. It only means that I try to focus on the decisions that matter, while not always being overly rigid with low-impact lifestyle choices.

Not flying has not restricted my life. For a while I worked for a Swedish employer, parts of my family were in Germany, and I live in Ljubljana. In that period, I spent quite some time on night trains. This year I travel less, also due to COVID-19, but I am lucky that I live with my family in Slovenia, where we have snowy mountains, forests, the seaside, good food and cultural events close by. Yes, when I see pictures or films from exotic, far-away places I sometimes wish to go there. And when the climate, technology, or my (time) budget allow, I will go there. But it has to be worth it. Fast travel, instagramable holidays and the like, do not make me happy, so I don’t miss them at all.

Jonas Sonnenschein
Slovenia

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Ida, Sweden

After I graduated I wanted to travel. However, I had just begun to understand the severity of the climate crisis and soon realised that I had to drop the idea of ​​flying to the other side of the world and go backpacking in Asia like so many others – for the sake of the climate (and my conscience). I simply had to rethink my plans and instead I made the best trip of my life – by interrailing in Europe. I’m so incredibly happy that I dared to do this. It made me understand that it is possible to travel to so many amazing places so smoothly and easily in other ways – and since then I have stayed on the ground.

Doing something different and challenging yourself can feel both scary and awesome at the same time, and it is a step I hope and wish more people would dare to take. Once done, it feels much easier. I did experience some questioning from people around me, which I think one might have to expect – but this is also what can start discussions and change in the long run. These questions and discussions are often the ones that quickly turn into cheers instead. Now I am studying the second year in Environmental Sciences at Linköping university and my goal is to work with environmental issues and make a difference in the future.

Ida Woxlin
Student Environmental Sciences, Norrköping. 

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Gope, UK

I’ve always been conscious of climate issues but it wasn’t until I saw Flight Free UK on BBC Breakfast in August 2019 that I realised the huge environmental impact of flying. After doing some research online I decided to take the Flight Free 2020 pledge. 

From a personal point of view this was quite a challenge because in my spare time I do triathlons and my training was always in places like the south of Spain or Lanzarote. This year I went to the Lake District and Wales. Yes it’s colder and the roads aren’t as good, but the UK mountains and lakes are as beautiful as anywhere in the world in my opinion. There are some stunning parts of the UK that I was not aware of up until last year – it’s a real shame it took me this long to find out about them.

Work-wise, I run an IT consultancy, Data Kraken. We’ve always had processes in place to minimise unnecessary travel, like high-quality cameras & microphones and digital whiteboards etc so we can hold effective meetings and training online without losing business hours travelling between clients. Covid has meant businesses are having to adapt to this new way of working but based on my experience of working for Blue Chip companies for 16 years, I strongly believe a large majority of business flights are ultimately unnecessary. 

Data Kraken is also going flight free in 2021. That doesn’t mean all of the staff will be flight free in their personal lives (albeit we will be encouraging staff to do this), but from a business perspective, none of our team will be flying for any business purposes. Bearing in mind we’ve got staff and clients in three continents, it could be a challenge but based on the fact that due to Covid we did no business flights in 2020, the team is certainly motivated by this initiative in 2021.

Gope Walker
Oxford, UK

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Marcus, Sweden

For me, it is important to do what I can for the climate. For the future and in the present.

I choose not to fly as it affects our world negatively. I do not need to fly abroad ,and within Sweden I travel in other ways. The times I have flown during my life can be counted on one hand and most trips have been made for work. There are so many things to see and do in the immediate area and in our beautiful country and I think that goes a long way.

My family and I have also chosen not to own a car, but rent one when needed. We use our bikes very often and travel as much by public transport as possible. When we travel by train, for example, the journey becomes part of the experience and it is more fun to travel that way with the children. It is good for the environment and good for the wallet.

Marcus Gillsjö, Falkenberg, music teacher in the Church of Sweden.

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Josh, USA

I pledge not flying in 2021 because not flying in 2020 made it far better than it would have been, just like 2019, 2018, 2017, and most of 2016, when I first challenged myself to go a year without flying. I expected the worst year of my life. Instead, it’s led to more time with family, more community, more control over my career, more savings, more adventure, more connection with other cultures instead of polluting them, and I could go on. Who would have guessed?!?!

It replaced feeling entitled with feeling humble. Life isn’t about what I’m missing out there but what I create, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.

Josh Spodek
New York City, USA