How to have a climate-friendly long-distance relationship

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Being in a long-distance relationship is always hard but if you have to take a plane every time you want to see your loved one it can be even harder.

First off, you have to show up at the airport two hours in advance. To kill those couple of hours, you'll probably start scrolling your social news feeds in search of interesting articles. And, if you’re in the same filter bubble as I am, there’s a fat chance you’ll end up reading articles on why flying is so bad for the environment. A sense of guilt will then start to pervade your romantic commuting.

recent report commissioned by the UK Committee on Climate Change stated that flying is “the quickest and cheapest way for a consumer to increase their carbon footprint.” Today, global aviation produces just around 2% of all-human induced Carbon Dioxide but UN data projects that the sector is likely to become the single biggest emitter of C02 by 2050.

In response to these environmental concerns, the term “flygskam” (“flight shame” in Swedish) emerged in Sweden to discourage people from traveling by plane. But if you fly for love, “flight shame” won’t keep you on the ground: you’ll still board the plane, albeit guilt-ridden. Seeing your partner is just too important.

As someone who is currently in a long-distance relationship, I tried to find ways to curb the environmental impact of my love story. The bad news is that there is no easy fix, the good news is that the most romantic solution is also the most climate-friendly one.  

To start with, you can consider alternatives to flying. If you live in the same country or continent as your loved one, it might be possible and relatively hassle-free to hop on a train.

Rail travel is virtually always less carbon-intensive than flying. The Eurostar, a high-speed train connecting London with Belgium, France and the Netherlands, emits 6 grams of C02 per passenger per kilometer versus the 133 grams emitted by an equivalent flight.

For longer distances, you might also consider night trains which, after years of decline, are undergoing a renaissance. Earlier this month, the Austrian Federal Railways announced that new overnight services will connect Vienna to Brussels and Amsterdam over the next few years, making it easier to move across Europe by rail.

However, there are distances trains can’t bridge. If you and your partner live thousands of kilometers away from each other, boarding a plane is probably the only solution.

You might then think of alternative ways to reduce your carbon footprint. According to science, there are three effective ways to go about reducing your carbon footprint, besides limiting air-travel.

You can switch to a plant-based diet, sparing the planet around 0.8 tonnes of C02 equivalent per year. Living car-free can go a long way too, saving about 2.4 tonnes of C02 equivalent per year.

Finally, if you have a heterosexual relationship, you might also consider having a smaller family. UK charity Population Matters claims that having one fewer child is 25 percent more effective in cutting carbon emissions than living without a car.

In all of this, it goes without saying that the easiest solution to avoid air travel is to move in with your partner, and live happily and climate-friendly ever after.

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