Trying to do our bit for sustainable travel- Our family Grove of trees
A slightly different post from me today but I thought it might be something that some of you might be interested in if you travel so I thought I would share. Please note that this post is not sponsored in any way, I just wanted to share the charity as I have been doing a lot of research into sustainable travel over the last few months. I really am trying to write more regularly on this blog again this year, especially about topics which interest me.
Travelling is our passion but what about the environment?
Like many people we are trying to do more we can to help the environment. This might be something as simple as recycling more, eating less meat based meals, or walking as much as we can instead of driving (all things we are trying to do more of this year). There is one thing however that does makes us feel guilty and at at a bit of a dilemma when it comes to being more greener, and that is travel. If you have been following me on social media, or this blog, for a long time you will know that travelling is our family passion. If I could I would pack our bags tomorrow and travel the world, but firstly I’m a bit of a home bird at heart and secondly I don’t think our bank balance would allow it.
But we do travel as much as we can and we are incredibly lucky that over the past few years we have been given some amazing travel opportunities as a result of my blog and social media. It’s in my blood I swear, my Grandparents have travelled the world (and still do in their 80’s), although my Mum isn’t as fussed. But I adore travelling, seeing the world, and we have already passed that sense of adventure down to our children.
I think travelling is such a positive experience for children and I could talk for ages about why I think seeing other parts of the world and different cultures is so beneficial to them. But at the same time every time we set foot on a plane we are increasing our family carbon footprint. Yes there is the argument that these planes would fly regardless of whether our family were on them. But if everyone thought like that what changes would we ever make?
For a long while now I have been thinking about how we can reduce the impact we have when we fly, while also teaching our children that it is important to have an awareness of the world we live in and the way we are potentially leaving it for future generations. We are taking small steps as a family but ultimately plane travel does have an impact on our environment. So how can I stop my slight feeling of guilt over the fact we do go on a fair few planes, while also continuing to show our children the world (while we are fortunate enough to be able to do so)? The answer is our little grove of trees. But more about that later…
Carbon isn’t just about flights…
Did you know that a return flight from London to NYC releases just shy of one tonne of carbon into the environment for each passenger on board?
Personally I find those figures crazy. But it’s not just flights, there are so many things that we do that increase our carbon footprint, from our daily commute, heating our homes, to the food we eat. According to the Woodland Trust the 11.5 billion sandwiches that are eaten in the UK each year are estimated to be responsible for a greater carbon output than eight million cars. And it’s these silent and invisible emissions that are one of the main factors that are contributing to climate change across the world. This is because Carbon is a greenhouse gas, which means that it traps the sun’s energy in the Earth’s atmosphere. The more carbon that is released into the atmosphere the more energy that is trapped leading to a higher overall global temperature.
Small steps can make a difference
Like I said above it is easy to say that flights would be running regardless of whether our family get on them, or that plastic bags are still going to be produced by supermarkets regardless of whether we bring a reusable one in with us. I hold up my hands and say that as a family we still have a long way to go in regards to certain things. But we are trying to do small steps. Some things that you can do are-
- Don’t drive and take public transport or walk wherever possible. This is great within reason but we live in the middle of nowhere and we have to drive to school. However I am trying to walk as much as I can.
- Cut down on meat based meals. We are not at a stage where we want to cut out meat completely, but since January we are trying to eat more veggie based meals, I have pretty much completely cut out meat at lunchtimes and we have substituted at least two or three meat based meals a week for vegetarian ones. It’s good for our health and for the environment.
- Stick to direct flights to your destination. (take-off and landing do the most damage), although I know that these can be the cheaper option.
- Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups. I bought Jon a really nice reusable coffee cup for Christmas, and I take my water bottle with me everywhere now, although I am still guilty of enjoying a fizzy drink from a bottle as I prefer them to a can. I try and buy glass bottle fizzy drinks where I can, although these are a lot more expensive.
- Do things at home– we are learning more and more about recycling, we for the most part use energy-saving lightbulbs, or you could do things like use a menstrual cup (I must admit I don’t yet do this), or use less wipes (another thing I am guilty of using too much).
Back to flying- how can you calculate your carbon footprint?
First things first you can calculate your carbon footprint (although it’s quite scary stuff). This is just one website I found (carbonfootprint.com) where you can just find out your footprint for flying, or you can also find it for your household, your car, your commute etc too. I am choosing to only concentrate on our flight carbon footprint for now. (I have put the flight calculator at the bottom of this post)
So as an example when we flew to Orlando in October last year, using this calculator I have worked out that just for me my footprint was approximately 1.2 tonnes of CO2. Just for me. For one long haul return flight. That’s therefore 6 tonnes of CO2 just for one flight as a family.
But what are we doing to reduce our Carbon Footprint?
Firstly I should probably say, do I think the small measures we are taking as a family in any way make up for the flights we take and the damage we do to our environment every day in other ways? No not at all.
But to me I feel like it is better than doing nothing and it’s about taking small steps and educating ourselves further.
I first started researching what we could do to help a few months ago and one way was donating to plant new trees. I had a look at a few websites, including the Woodland Trust and others, who all have regular ways of donating and therefore offsetting your carbon footprint. I eventually decided on ‘Trees for Life’ because I really liked the fact that you can set up your own grove of trees. To me this felt a little more special than just donating and not knowing, it is something we can follow as a family.
Trees for Life is a charity based up in the Caledonian Forest in Scotland. The core purpose and vision of Trees for Life is to restore the Caledonian Forest and all its constituent species of flora and fauna to the Scottish Highlands.
There was a part of me when I was researching that wondered whether I should pick a tree planting charity based in England as of course that is where we are based, but I decided that to be honest it doesn’t matter where it is as long as we are trying to do what we can. I really liked what Trees for Life stood for and like I said above I really liked that you could plant a family grove of trees.
Trees for Life have calculated that around 6 trees will offset 1 tonne of CO2. That means that approximately for each return flight we do (this is long haul short haul will be different) for a family of 5 we would need to plant 36 trees in order to offset our carbon footprint. Personally I find that absolutely crazy.
What is a family Grove of trees- and how do the trees get planted?
Like I mentioned above I really liked that with Trees for Life you could set up a grove of trees- whether that was for a couple, family, memorial, or corporate. Here is the blurb from their website… ‘Your grove of trees will be planted by Trees for Life to create a beautiful, wild forest. Bare hillsides will be transformed into healthy young woodlands, rich in wildlife and protected for future generations. You’ll receive an online grove webpage where friends and family can add trees and dedications of their own.’
Our personal grove’s name is ‘The Ellison Family Grove.’ You get to name it! Whenever we donate it will go towards helping the Caledonian Forest. It’s an important ecosystem and they are doing three main things- Working to naturally regenerate the existing trees, Planting new, native trees, and Removing non native trees and invasive shrubs to give the original ones chance to thrive. It also helps the wildlife- there’s red squirrels there!
We can donate to our grove as little or as often as we like, and best still family and friends can also donate too, I thought it would be good for when we don’t need Christmas or Birthday presents. It cost us £50 to set up our grove page, then each additional tree will cost us £6. Realistically we aren’t going to be able to completely offset our carbon footprint, however we can do as much as we can and I feel like this is the first step to trying to educate ourselves further. We will definitely be at the very least offsetting mine and Jon’s carbon footprint from the flights we take going forward.
It also means we can teach our children about the importance of looking after the environment for themselves and future generations, as well as also teaching them about their privilege and the fact that they are in an exceptionally fortunate position to be able to travel. We won’t be able to travel forever, but while we are in a position to do so, we just want to do what we can to give back in any way possible.
NB: As mentioned at the start this post is in no way sponsored, I just thought it would be nice to share in case it is something you are interested in learning more about too. I don’t claim to be an expert, we are just exploring ways in which we can help give something back. I would love to know if you have any tips or thoughts.