Guest post by Ragnheiður Björk Halldórsdóttir (pictured above)

More and more people are becoming aware of the environmental effects that individuals cause in their daily lives. For many people, seeing unsorted trash thrown away tugs at their heartstrings. Others find it completely incomprehensible why plastic straws are still being made, let alone two in one drink. Still others are foregoing the use of private cars, energy wastage, water wastage, food waste, disposable packs, little-used clothing, and are ashamed to forget reusable bags at home when they go to the grocery store. There is then an unmistakable rise in people’s shock at the high carbon dioxide emissions that an individual causes by sitting on a plane. This is the so-called “flight-shame” or “flugviskubit” in Icelandic, a concept that has its roots in Sweden.

According to the dictionary, “flight-shame” can roughly be defined as a guilty conscience that passengers receive from air travel due to its negative environmental impact [1]. As a result of this guilty conscience, the number of passengers in the first quarter of 2019 decreased by 378,000 in Sweden compared to 2018 [2]. Although the beginnings of this guilt have also begun to plague many Icelanders, such a spread has not yet taken place there. This is probably explained by the fact that many of us Icelanders cannot imagine the fate of never being able to leave our beloved country for a vacation with few other alternatives to flights. Certainly, the number of flights we take can be reduced by extending our travel abroad or traveling more domestically. In addition, the carbon emissions from these flights can be compensated by planting trees, for example, through companies such as Kolviðar [3]. It has even become easier to know the exact equivalent of these emissions in a number of trees thanks to an Icelandic doctoral student in computer science in Sweden who set up a calculator [4] for such accounts [5].

However, these are not the only possible solutions. A company by the name of ZeroAvia has now announced the sale of smaller 10-20 seater hydrogen powered aircraft starting in 2022 [6]. They are expected to have zero atmospheric emissions, as well as having lower operating and maintenance costs than the current fleet [7]. To date, these aircraft only have a range of 500 miles or about 800 kilometres, but it must be noted that about half of the emissions due to aircraft are caused by flights within just 1000 miles. Therefore, a solution like this provides an opportunity to reduce flight emissions by up to half. The use of such solutions, as well as the reduction in air travel and carbon balance of the flights that are flown, offers a good opportunity to reduce the impact of aircraft emissions in the future.

Swimming across the Atlantic Ocean is therefore probably not the most optimal solution whenever we want to go on a holiday as ideas for solutions to the carbon problem are not in short supply. In order to make sure that future generations will have the opportunity to live under decent conditions, it is important that we think further than tomorrow. We are responsible for our decisions, for being open to innovations such as hydrogen powered aircraft, but also for welcoming traditional green solutions like planting trees.

Translated from Icelandic and originally published on: