Could you forsake your summer holiday abroad to help the planet?
We’re flying more than ever with city breaks to Europe, long haul holidays, business trips and visits to relatives who have emigrated. Budget airlines and small, local airports mean it can be as cheap and easy to fly as catching a train.
Cars, power stations and factories do more damage than planes but over four billion people flew last year and there are growing concerns about the effect it’s having on climate change.
Sarah and Jim Lockwood, who are both teachers from Nether Edge, try to be as environmentally friendly as possible. They are dedicated recyclers, have gas and electricity from a green energy company, wear clothes from charity shops to cut down on landfill and have an allotment.
They consciously avoided flying on holiday for several years but admit it’s difficult to give it up completely. They recently did a long-haul holiday with their children Molly, aged 13, and Jack, six.
Sarah said: “We hadn’t been abroad for four years and then we went to Thailand. I was very aware of the air miles but we don’t do it every year.
“We did used to fly a lot more but we took a conscious decision not to do so many holidays and weekends away abroad.
“When we arrived in Thailand, one of the things I noticed was the plastic strewn about. The amount of rubbish from a stall being blown on to the beach was harrowing and heartbreaking.
“Seeing this and the rubbish in the ocean had an impact on the children. There was a fridge being washed up and they wanted to drag it out. They collected 336 straws in five minutes – plastic straws are one of the small changes everyone can make as 400 billion of them go in the bin each year.”
Former university lecturer Mark James is honest about how hard it would be for him to change the habits of a lifetime.
“I was with some friends who are climbers and mountaineers and between us we have climbed all over the world,” he said.
“I have travelled a huge amount and have family on both coasts of the United States. I’m going to the east coast of the US and I have the chance of going to India and California. I was in the US last year and I’m planning on going to Nepal.
“I don’t drive but I consume. As someone who taught geography I believe in the education of travel as it broadens the mind.
“It has an environmental consequence but for people like me who want to travel, what on earth do we do? There is slow travel on cargo ships but it’s very difficult for people to really opt out of consumption. The solutions may be in technology.
“Air companies should offset the air miles – they should do that, not the individuals. Travel should be a right for everybody.”
But making a personal shift would be difficult, he reiterates. “The reality is my lifestyle habits over 60 years mean it’s a big change. I admire people but in all honestly it would be tricky for me to change.”
Peter Garbutt, a newly-elected Green councillor, hasn’t flown for over 20 years and is phasing out his car. “I’ve not flown since 1996 and spend all my holidays in this country, it’s great because there’s so many parts of the UK that I want to see.
“I still have a car but I can’t ride a bike. My parents didn’t let me learn as they said there was too much traffic on the road in the 1950s! I’m looking for a trike instead.
“Buses are not good enough though, the infrastructure and public transport needs changing.”
For Shahid Ali, saving the planet starts in his hallway. “We made a conscious decision to reduce our heating and I don’t put the gas fire on unless it’s really cold. We have hot water bottles and blankets and it’s saving money as well as the environment.
“I can’t be as dedicated as some people but there are things I can do to make some changes. It’s about bringing down the average and once you do one thing you start thinking about the next thing.”
People need help to change
Green councillor Alison Teal says the Government needs to help people make changes.
“We need the Government to make really big changes but people can also do what they can at a really small level to reduce their carbon footfall. The council also needs to really help people to properly recycle.”
Jim Lockwood agrees. “Legislation needs to be used to change people’s habits, people have busy lives and don’t have the time or money. There needs to be minimum effort for people to recycle. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time and it’s cheaper.
“China and India produce a lot of pollution but China is the biggest investor in green energy and plants vast areas of trees.
“Western nations have produced a huge amount of greenhouse gases and it’s for us to develop technology and support other countries. We have to shoulder the responsibility.”
Shahid Ali believes small changes by the council would make a big difference. “The council wants taxi drivers to move to hybrid and electric vehicles but where can they charge them? There are not enough charging places.
“Hybrid vehicles are a lot more expensive but the more you drive, the more you save. The council should help people work out what the best vehicles are, help them make a decision and advise them on finances.”