I can buy a roundtrip plane ticket on a budget airline from London to Lisbon for under $50. It's never been cheaper to get on a plane and take off for the weekend and with these accessible prices, people are flying now more than ever. I will admit it, I'm notorious for hopping on a plane and taking the quick weekend trip. I feel guilty. Is my SkyMiles status is putting a polar bear out of a home.
Over the past few years, there's been an increasing awareness about the environmental impact aviation has on our planet. I had no idea what my flying carbon footprint was until a year ago. (See your carbon footprint buy using this calculator: www.footprintcalculator.org) I like to think that my routines of walking to work, taking the subway, shopping with reusable bags, and eating a mostly plant-based diet makes me the model millennial fighting climate change, but just one of my business class flights across the Atlantic delivers a higher carbon footprint than driving a car for a year. The link between our jet-setting lifestyles and planet Earth literally burning is hard to ignore.
Welcome to flight shaming.
It's huge in Europe and it's coming to the US. Take a look at Instagram (mine included), we can see flying and traveling is a source of pride and we love to share our experiences. Flight shaming points out the negative impact that flying has on the environment. Paired with the guilt of contributing to overtourism and destroying the souls of cities like Barcelona, Florence, Lisbon, and Amsterdam, flight shaming is also giving way to the trend of "responsible travel". According to the Pinterest100 report, "It’s time for a travel tune-up. People are looking to lessen their impact, but keep the fun. Like many industries, tourism is reaching an eco-conscious crossroad. For some travelers, that means monitoring their environmental impact. They’re embracing cleaner transit methods, or even taking staycations instead of long-distance getaways."
Let's take a look at how the birth of flight shaming is showing up in Pinterest searches and how businesses are responding woth responsible travel:
Train travel searches are up 107% from LY. The flight shaming movement started in Scandinavia. vliegschaamte in Dutch, flygskam in Swedish, and flugscham in German. Sweden’s rail authority will run more overnight sleeper trains to serve passengers skipping airlines amid escalating climate concerns.
Reducing carbon footprint offerings from airlines. Most major airline carriers around the world offer the option for customers to offset their carbon emission by contributing to an environmental program.
Operational changes from airlines. Airlines are creating programs that reduce waste, cut out single-use plastics, and invest in alternative fuel production.
Eco-friendly travel. Searches on Pinterest were up 73% in 2019 as travelers look for travel programs that reduce their impact on the environment.
Agritourism: Entrepreneurial farmers are inviting folks to lend a helping hand, pick their own produce and maybe even stay the night. Last year, I had the opportunity to stay at a small organic coffee farm in Colombia.
Hotels are reducing single use plastics and creating housekeeping programs that lessen the impact on the environment. Travelers are looking more for treehouse retreats, biodomes, ecolodges and other unusual green-minded getaways.
Learning vacations. Up 32% on Pinterest, travelers are looking for ways to blend global learning with their holidays.
Have you been flight shamed yet? Have you changed your personal or business travel behavior recently?
More reading about flight shaming:
Dispatch From the Land of Flight Shaming, or How I Became a Train Boaster, The New York Times