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Fanny, France

THE BEGINNING// I made the decision to stop taking planes in June 2019. I deeply care about the environment and the future of the planet, and staying passive is not a solution… I wanted to feel aligned with my values! I started to see life as a game: how could I lower my impact even more? How can I level up? I don’t see this decision as a constraint. For me, it’s a fun challenge that spices life up! Of course, sometimes I had to say no to some opportunities… but this decision also led to unforgettable memories! 

RECENT EXPERIENCES// During my studies, I was supposed to do an exchange in St Petersburg. In July 2020, I left Paris for Russia by train. But once I arrived in Estonia, I got blocked because of the closed borders. I thought I would wait just 2 weeks… but 6 months later, I was still blocked! So I changed my plans and took a boat to Sweden.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED// Not taking planes brought me unbelievable experiences… I would have never thought I would have lived one day in Estonia, or be able to speak Swedish, or that I would make inspiring friends who enlighten and changed my life! It brings you out of your comfort zone and offers you a new outlook on the world.

WHAT’S NEXT?// Now, I want to continue my studies in South Korea. I’ve just started my journey without planes from Stockholm. Thanks to my previous experiences, I now hope to get lost along the way or find myself blocked in a country I don’t know yet!

Fanny Billault
Art student, France

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René, Netherlands

Joining the campaign was quite easy for me, because I have been worried about climate change and other crises related to our human behaviour for several years now (and I have known about it since the nineties). 

I used to fly for dermatology workshops and congresses organised by the ESVD and ESVP (veterinary pathology) if it was too far away to drive, even though I did take the train several times. We combined these flights with our summer holidays. I was aware of the consequences of flying, so several years ago I suggested the organisers of the ESVD congress should discourage visiting the yearly congress by plane, but I never received an answer.

Eight years ago my wife and I became climate activists, and we took part in many demonstrations and other actions. We stopped flying and we tell this fact to everyone who wants to listen (not many people, I admit). We also became vegetarians and now we are mostly vegan. One year ago we moved to an old wooden house, removed the gas, insulated it, put solar panels on the roof, and installed an air heat pump.

We try to live within sustainable boundaries, within the carbon budget that’s left for us, even though this is impossible because of the current structures of society. 

Since 2018 my wife, Eliane (see picture), has been a councilor in Heerlen for the Dutch Party for the Animals (campaigning for animal welfare, but also for system change, climate, biodiversity and related subjects) and I am a member of the Caring Vets, Klimaatcoalitie Parkstad, Parkstad in Transitie, Fossielvrij Nederland and Grootouders voor het Klimaat.

René van der Luer
Netherlands

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Vipul, UK

When I realised just how fragile a state our world is in, I tried lots of things to reduce my impact, and the easiest, and best, decision I made was to stop flying for holidays. Now the journey is part of my memories, not something to forget. So, I’ve gladly signed the Flight Free pledge because it’s a tiny no for me, for a huge yes for our planet and its life.

And the best bit? Because I’ve made this public commitment, I hear and see my friends talking about not flying and asking about their ecological footprints – people who wouldn’t normally have given it a second thought!

The best campaigning is definitely to set an example and talk about it.

Vipul Patel
Bath, UK

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Bilal, Morocco

I am Bilal from Morocco. For me, not flying is not a big step. I have never been on a plane before so I will not be flying this year, either for work or on vacation, as I have always preferred trains. I choose not to fly because flying contributes to global warming and pollution and leaves an enormous carbon footprint. Aeroplanes run on kerosene which, when burned, releases a very large amount of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, and although aviation is not a large industry, it has a major impact on the climate.

Bilal Àl Màdàni
Morocco

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Flip, Belgium

As a young boy I was privileged to see a lot of our beautiful world. The Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia, and also Russia, the Middle East and the US. All faraway places. In those days these destinations were highly uncommon and pretty expensive to reach, so the only way of getting there was by flying. Sitting in an aeroplane was thrilling and exciting, and my childhood dream was therefore to become a pilot. Nevertheless, it all went differently and I decided to study aviation technology instead. I was even doing research into how to make flying less polluting, by using satellite navigation and computer systems to calculate the most optimal flight path as a way of saving kerosene.

While undertaking this research, I began to realise that the aviation industry is not at all progressing towards a sustainable system. Flying seems beneficial for humanity, as it is a cheap mode of transporting people and goods, but that is only if you look at it from a short-term perspective. Its tremendous growth has resulted in a system with so many negative effects that in the long run – and even in the near future – it cannot be beneficial for humankind. In more ways than one, flying has lost its sex appeal.

When I heard about this new movement, Flight Free, I felt that this is the way forward. As someone who loves seeing the world, I was then amazed to learn about all the sustainable alternatives. And there are many! Take the train for example. This marvellous piece of engineering can take you through beautiful landscapes and to spectacular cities. It had already brought me to exotic places in Europe and Asia.

“But it takes too much time,” friends constantly tell me. Good point. But think about it this way: We can do two things. Either we can be more efficient, reducing our transport time as much as possible and going quickly from one place to another. But this is stressful, and while it sounds counter-intuitive, when we try to go fast, we actually end up wasting more of our time with things like waiting around at the airport or standing in queues. 

Or we can take more time to do the things we like, and do them well. In my case this means more time for travelling. When I took the Trans Mongolian Express from Europe to China several years ago, it was a real revelation. By taking the train, I saw and felt how big and beautiful the earth is, and I encountered the loveliest people. I learned more from this way of travelling than from just taking a plane, sitting like sardines in a can, looking at some movies with earplugs in and being detached from my surroundings. Something that seems ‘inefficient’ and ‘stupid because most people do otherwise’, might not at all be so.

To come full circle, Flight Free allows me to say: I am choosing a better world. I am choosing the good life.

Will you?

Flip Cuijpers
Belgium

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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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Elisabeth, Greece

I have pledged to stay flight free in 2022 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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Nathalie, Canada

For me, it all started 14 years ago, when I chose to take the train home from British Columbia to Montreal instead of flying. At the time, it wasn’t a conscious decision to never fly again, it was simply a choice I made for that specific trip. I stayed very informed about climate change all my adult life; most of my actions and decisions are largely directed by my will to be an environmentally friendly citizen.

More recently, I became more and more concerned about the climate crisis. Anxiety seemed to be slowly replacing my usual positivity about our future… As I searched the Internet for signs of inspiration, I wanted to know if others, like me, refused to take the plane because of its environmental impact. That’s when I found the organization “We stay on the Ground” and its campaign “Flight Free 2020”. I was thrilled!

Soon after, I started a Flight Free 2020 campaign in Canada which I ran for a year. I’m so pleased to see that Flight Free World has now become an international movement.

Most would say that refusing to fly is quite radical, simply because it is so accessible and popular. But times have changed. We must follow suit. The bottom line is that taking the plane is very often unnecessary and it causes a great deal of air pollution.

I believe we must try, at least try, to simplify our lives, see the world differently and decrease our carbon footprints. There are many ways to do this. Not flying is just one of those. We don’t need to visit each other’s countries to understand each other. We are beyond that point. We are in this together.

I pledge be flight free for as long as the climate needs.

Nathalie Laplante
Canada