Part of the holiday challenge is to reflect on holiday travel, and how we go about gathering with family. While I was raised in Dundas (in the house in which I now live), my family of origin lives in the Stratford area—somehow they all ended up there! We will be making a few trips back and forth over the holidays, but will make sure that we are driving together.
I also have family, my extended family, in Quebec, northern Ontario, British Columbia, and Oregon. They are notable distances away, and require travel by plane. Last year, Steve and I traveled to Vancouver to visit our families there, and had a fabulous time. I actually did the polar bear dip, which was a fun, chilly, and intense way to start the year!
Over the past year, I have thought alot about flying. I am an avid traveler, and embrace the opportunity to visit other areas of the world. However, we are in a climate crisis, and I pay a great deal of attention to my personal carbon emissions. As part of the live net zero contest, we have reduced our household emissions significantly, and I continue to think about my next steps. A flight from Toronto to Vancouver would produce one ton of CO2. Quite simply, we all need to stop using fossil fuels, and not flying is a very simple way to do just so. At the moment, I have decided I am not going to fly: it just feels irresponsible.
Once I made this decision, I realized a world of local experiences opened up. Hamilton has many amazing natural and cultural experiences that I can explore, and I can travel easily to Toronto by GO train. I can drive to nearby towns and cities to visit. I can also cross the border, and visit Buffalo or Rochester. In fact, instead of flying to Vancouver, we are going to have a family getaway in Ellicottville, a two hour drive from our home: still a bit of a journey, but with significantly fewer emissions.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day about our own personal emissions, and shared with her this carbon footprint calculator. She calculated her emissions for 2023: she lives in an apartment, has a heat pump, has an EV, and walks many places – but she also took two international flights and one domestic flight. Her emissions were 6.8 tons of CO2 per year. She then calculated her emissions again, and the only change she made was to remove her flights: her emissions were reduced to 2.5 tons of CO2 per year! This is a remarkable change, and a great example of the impact of not flying.