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Travel Less, Live More (then offset)

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

We all are attracted to the glamour of travel and many of us count on taking at least a few trips each year. It seems to me, our spectator state-of-mind has given us an excessive appetite to get into our cars and/or hop on planes – spewing carbons with abandon – just to see something new or to “get away”. As the carbon cost of travel becomes a heady issue, I’m wondering if there is a better way to satisfy our craving for experience. In my earlier search to discover the unknown, I didn’t vacation much, but I relocated every couple years. Somewhat by accident, this version of sightseeing – though not carbon neutral – minimized my extra-curricular traveling and provided me with the opportunity to engage with the people and culture in a more authentic way.

However, now that I’ve been in one place for awhile, I remember how hard the travel bug can bite. So, I occasionally get on the road in my hybrid car, but much less than I used to – and I fly as little as possible. I’ve helped the planet and I have learned to truly enjoy vacationing where I live. After all, odds are there are lots of things we haven’t seen, done, experienced or discovered right where we are.

Although an extended travel sabbatical could be a growth experience for many of us, we don’t have to stop traveling altogether – I believe it’s important to see and know the world first hand. But, you know where I’m headed with this – we can all live more if we travel less. We can help stop global warming and benefit by becoming curious about and involved in our own communities. In yoga terms, “Be Here Now.

And when we do have to/want to travel, there’s offsetting – a kind of dollars for deeds alternative to staying home. The idea is you “buy” a set amount of a renewable energy source to offset the carbon your non-renewable use of energy creates. You can offset almost any carbon emission, but be aware that not all providers are created equal. And don’t get your hopes up too high in the, er, clouds – offsetting that flight to Hawaii, your energy guzzling car or house is no substitute for cutting back where you can. For further discussion of the pros and cons of offsetting, check out Sami’s post on Treehugger.

We Changers offset all our business and personal air miles with Terra Pass. You can check out Clean Air/Cool Planet for other reliable offset retailers.

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7 Responses to “Travel Less, Live More (then offset)”

  1. Sami Grover Says:

    Right on Tracey!

    Another aspect of this is the increasing tendency for families to be spread out all over the world – therefore making travel more frequent. How do you decide between reducing your impact on the climate (especially when, for the time being, that plane will fly anyway), and going to see your mum, your partner, or your best friend? George Monbiot coined the interesting term ‘love miles’ in his book Heat:

    “More painfully, in some cases, our freedoms have become obligations. When you form relationships with people from other nations, you accumulate love miles: the distance between your home and that of the people you love or the people they love. If your sister-in-law is getting married in Buenos Aires, it is both immoral to travel there – because of climate change – and immoral not to, because of the offence it causes.”

  2. tao Says:

    Thanks for the note and the quote, Sami. I agree that traveling to visit loved ones is an undeniable fact of our current culture and I say “sustaining” relationships is important. First, make sure those trips are about quality, not quantity and possibly rethink those that fall under the “obligation” category, considering other meaningful ways to “be there”. Beyond this, there’s only one thing left to do – OFFSET!

    Already trading out those those love miles with one of the carbon offset companies? Then challenge yourself to accumulate your own version of offsetting in your personal life. Change a bulb, ride a bike, car share, jog outdoors instead of on the treadmill, turn off your A/C, use only the cold setting on your washing machine, turn off the ice maker in your freezer – the list is endless! Once you start creating new habits, you’ll get hooked – and then you’ll be telling friends about how easy it all is, and the ball will be rolling in your corner of the Universe!

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  4. JiNan Says:

    Thank you for the email and reminder about offsetting. It was great to read about your A/C break — I did that for June more than 10 years ago for a friend who was in the Peace Corps in Niger since she would be in the heat without choosing to switch to “cool” or not. More recently, I’ve had fund since I started riding my bike to work here & there this summer. I also took the summer off from most travels, which was a nice break for sure. I will continue to explore how to offset my business flights, which are important for getting green, economically active companies off-the-ground in Africa and elsewhere. I hope that whatever I can do to stimulate economic growth there and wherever I work will eliminate importing, reduce waste, and increase quality of life locally, in a sustainable and helpful way. Why not help entire nations “leap-frog” our oil dependent and physical infrastructure waste? At least I believe this is part of what I’m trying to do. If there’s over $60B per year in new patent filings in the US, which is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of “wasted” R&D energies (and time) that never becomes commercialized, then if we are “recycling” any of that to implement commercial change that is more energy and resource efficient, then I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something. Awareness is a good place to start — and focusing on “quality not quantity” even for business trips. THANK YOU TRACEY!

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