The days are slowly getting shorter and cooler. The autumn holidays are just around the corner. For many, this is one more chance to jet off to sunnier climes before winter sets in. Even though we want to really enjoy ourselves on holiday, most of us still want to get value for money. But does the price of our holidays really cover all the costs we generate? A rhetorical question; the environment pays the price, especially when it comes to flying. A flight to Mallorca for CHF 50 could never factor in compensation for the approximately 1.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions generated.
To illustrate the true price of our holidays, here’s an example:
A direct flight from Basel to Tenerife and back is currently available from around CHF 550 per person. According to myclimate.org, with CO2 emissions of one tonne for the outward and return flights, you'd have to donate around CHF 30 to carbon-offset projects to be more or less off the hook. Incidentally, the annual budget of CO2 emissions per person per year under the Climate Agreement is 2.3 tonnes. Driving a medium-sized car for a year (12,000 km) generates about two tonnes of CO2 emissions. So the flight really packs a punch. With that in mind, instead of flying south this autumn, you could take a trip to the Swiss south, Ticino. When you travel by train or in an average medium-sized car, the journey from Basel to Locarno amounts to just 2 or 60 kg CO2 emissions respectively each way. When you get to Locarno, you can swim in the wonderful waters of Lake Maggiore or take a paddle board and explore the Maggia delta.
The global average for a greenhouse gas footprint, according to the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), is 6 tonnes. That’s almost three times as much as the limit to stop the climate from continuing to heat up. If you add to that all the emissions from imported goods, i.e. emissions caused by the Swiss overseas, you get an average of 14 tonnes of CO2 emissions per capita per year for Switzerland.
Let’s take another popular travel destination: Palma de Mallorca.
You can currently buy a one-way flight to Mallorca from around CHF 100. This generates roughly 210 kg of CO2 emissions. Instead of flying to the most popular Mediterranean island, you could take a trip to Lake Sempach on a warm autumn day, which would only involve 40 kg of CO2 by car. Or the Lorelei bathing islands on the Reuss delta – also known as the Swiss Caribbean – which would produce 30 kg of CO2. You can find more ideas and tips for holidays in Switzerland here. If you’d prefer a more active holiday, you can hop on your bike and climb the most beautiful mountain passes in Switzerland.
The choice is pretty straightforward isn’t it? Not always. The prices for different trips vary hugely. Switzerland is not a cheap destination. But if you factor climate costs into the price, the differences in price get smaller and smaller. So the only question that remains is... Do I want to pay the true cost of my holidays or should I just lie in my hammock and leave it to the next generation to worry about?
Each person has to decide for themselves where they want to go. That goes for the environment as much as for their own holidays. Nobody can tell you whether to stay at home and explore or go off in search of distant horizons. Nobody can force you to hold your business meeting over Skype instead of flying to attend in person. We are all responsible for ourselves. But we are also responsible for everyone else and everything around us. Our actions do not take place in a vacuum – they always have consequences for our fellow humans and the environment. It’s not hard to do the maths if you include the “externalities”, be they climate costs when travelling or the impact of our actions on our environment.
In comparison to long-distance travel, the main thing you’re missing out on is actually the flight. This is unlikely to be counted among your holiday highlights. Holidaying in your home country doesn't mean you have to miss out on breathtaking landscapes, culinary highlights, cultural exchanges or enriching new experiences. Quite the contrary – you’ll learn about all the facets of your home country and will really have something to say when someone asks: “Where are you from?”.