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Nadder Community Energy - May

To fly – or not to fly? It’s the conscience-wrestling question we face any time we find ourselves contemplating an overseas trip. We want to do right by the planet and make choices to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. But when it comes to the big one – the choice that puts all others into shade – how can we avoid blowing it all on a massive CO2-laden vapour trail across the once pristine azure sky?

Throughout the year we assiduously switch off unnecessary lights, are careful not to overfill kettles or overheat rooms, do our best to make our homes energy-efficient and cut back on fossil-fuelled car travel. But when it comes to booking that flight to Barcelona, Crete or Mumbai, many of us tell ourselves there’s no real alternative and we just have to gulp and go for it.

We all know the bald facts are uncomfortable – but perhaps don’t realise just how shocking they are. A return trip to San Francisco, for example, spews out more than twice as much CO2-equivalent per passenger as your average family petrol or diesel car emits in a year. So, taking that one trip is like driving your fossil-fuelled car around for about two years. That’s equivalent to about half the average UK resident’s total annual carbon footprint. Even a relatively modest return flight to Berlin would mean each passenger contributes about three times as much CO2e as the average person saves by recycling their waste for a whole year.

And in some ways, domestic flights are even worse because a greater proportion of the total flight emissions are expended during take-off and landing. Taking a plane from London to Glasgow for instance would emit about 400g of CO2e per passenger mile, compared to about 160g per passenger-mile for a typical long-haul flight.

By contrast, travelling by train or coach is far more planet-friendly. That trip to Glasgow, if done by a full intercity train, would emit just around 60-70g C02e per passenger mile. By coach, even less – around 50g per passenger mile.

Obviously, there are some journeys where it’s by plane or nothing. But for the sake of the climate, it’s important to ask ourselves a few key questions. Firstly, do I need to make this trip at all? Does the family have to have a Mediterranean holiday every year? How about a staycation in the UK? Second, can it be done by train or coach? Or even by car? – Two adults and two children in a typical petrol car emit about 75g CO2 per passenger mile.

Of course, there are downsides to travel by train, coach or car. Surface travel takes longer than by air, and in the case of the train is usually quite a bit more expensive. But against that is the greater comfort of the train, the affordability of the coach or the flexibility of the car. Plus, there’s much more to see out of the window. And the clincher … you’ll be doing your green credentials a big favour.

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Talking of ‘green’ and ‘big’, just space to let you know that Nadder Community Energy will be staging a Green Energy in Action Trail on the afternoon of Saturday 10 June at the start of Great Big Green Week. We have arranged a ‘trail’ of about a dozen examples of eco-friendly installations, such as solar panels, heat pumps, home batteries etc at various sites in and around Tisbury, mostly people’s homes. You’ll be able to drop in on as many as you like to pick up useful, practical information on the pros and cons, and at most sites chat directly with to the owners. It will be a great way to find out whether the various green energy solutions are right for you. So, do look out for further details through the usual channels or by checking out our website:

Alan Maryon-Davis

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