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Flight Free USA: A Grounded Way to Save the Planet

By: Barbara Peterson - November 2019

Flight Free USA is committed to providing a straightforward method individuals can engage in to save our planet for human habitation. Across the United States, volunteer coordinators are creating a movement that will involve hundreds of thousands of people taking immediate action to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. With the climate crisis at our door, it is so important that each one of us makes meaningful changes in how we live on this earth so we can clean up the mess we made and protect the quality of our life-giving air, water, soil, and biodiversity.

According to their website: “The existential predicament for our civilization is not at the level of choosing to fly a bit less. It is at the level of dropping emissions in the US by double-digit percentages in 2020 and again each year for years to come. It is not about minor changes in lifestyle. It is about rapidly adjusting to a low-carbon life starting at once, not in 6 or 10 years.” Eastern States Coordinator of Flight Free USA based out of Concord, NH, Katherine Leswing works to build a grassroots campaign that asks people to take a pledge agreeing not to fly in the year 2020, provided 100,000 others in the U.S. also make the pledge. Her efforts build on and are supported by coordinators in other regions throughout the U.S. Leswing states that it is about “taking collective responsibility to reduce the amount we fly in order to lessen our impact on the planet. Flying less is one of the most powerful ways we as individuals can reduce our carbon footprint, and with experts predicting that we have just a handful of years to take meaningful action on climate change, there has never been a better time to address the issue.”

Launched in August of 2019, Flight Free USA is modelled after the “We Stay On The Ground” grassroots organization that initiated the Flight Free pledge. It was founded in 2018 in Sweden by Maja Rosén and Lotta Hammar with the goal of having 100,000 people in Sweden agree not to fly in 2019. Indeed, the Swedish campaign inspired and amplified climate awareness, as Swedish air travel had dropped by 8% as of June 2019.* To date, ten other countries have joined the Flight Free movement: USA, Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Canada, Peru, Australia, and Slovenia. Their success is not only in reducing airplane emissions, it is also in how much they have altered people’s thinking in regards to the impact flying has on climate change; most people were unaware of the tremendous level of carbon commercial airplanes emit. Many are pledging to stay on the ground entirely or to a much greater extent to do their part as a collective in addressing the climate crisis. As Rosén states in an interview,** while the movement began to reduce the amount that people fly, she finds that it has had an effect she did not anticipate. When people start to think about flying less, they start to question other aspects of their lives that also exacerbate the crisis in which we all find ourselves. This movement has generated a great deal of thinking about how we might change our lifestyles in a wide range of ways to live more sustainably. Additionally, it has moved people to talk more about climate change with friends, family, colleagues, and their elected political representatives, which are important actions for spreading knowledge about global warming and putting pressure on lawmakers to address this crisis.

While many know that flying adds significantly to global warming, most people are not aware of the tremendous levels of carbon each flight emits. One round-trip flight from New York to London, according to the Flight Free USA website, “is 7,040 miles and produces 2.1 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions for each passenger.” They go on to say that in “2017, 81 countries in the world have lower annual per capita emissions than this flight, accounting for 46.9% of the world’s population.” Furthermore, the amount of flights is set to double in the next twenty years, seriously compounding rather than reducing the carbon footprint we are having on the earth.

Certainly, it is true that not everyone will be able to avoid flying. Flight Free USA does not expect such miraculous outcomes. What they do hope for, however, is that an increasing amount of people will become more aware of the costly environmental impacts flying has. They are working to initiate conversations about what role we humans can play collectively to reduce our carbon output. If we start questioning how our relationship to the earth has been destructive in some ways, perhaps we can start to alter that, making choices in our lives we hadn’t previously considered. We may also begin to see more clearly the immediate need for action, to press our elected officials to pass desperately needed legislation that funds research into cheaper and more effective ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere and that moves us quickly toward ending our reliance on fossil fuel.

In addition to Katherine Leswing’s work in Concord, NH, Flight Free USA is a nationwide campaign that has coordinators working in Berkley, CA, Portland, OR, Denver, CO and Minneapolis, MN. They continue to spread the word about their movement and are always looking for new volunteers that will enable them to have a coordinator for every U.S. state. To support this movement, Flight Free USA asks that people take the Flight Free 2020 pledge found on their website listed below, take a picture of themselves with a “selfie flyer” as shown above, and send it to them with a sentence or two about why they took the pledge. For those able to take the pledge, these selfies will do quite a bit to spread the word about the movement, inducing others to take the pledge, take part in other actions that address climate change, spread the word about the need to take immediate steps to reduce our carbon footprint, or devise a new movement that helps people alter their lifestyles to be more environmentally conscientious.

Because Flight Free USA recognizes that it is not immediately possible for everyone to take the Flight Free 2020 Pledge, they also offer a “Flight Diet” to encourage everyone to get involved and to share their story. The more people see their neighbors, friends, and community members taking climate action, the more likely they will be inspired to be a part of the climate solution. Flight Free USA is entirely run by volunteers, so everyone’s help in spreading awareness of this movement by sharing their selfies, or by sharing Flight Free USA’s social media posts, distributing mini-flyers available by contacting them, and talking to people about this movement, we as a collective of individuals can grow the movement to every US state and add to the pressure on our government to heed the increasing demand from the people to act now for global sustainability. Flight Free USA is a people-powered, grassroots campaign that is asking individuals to take responsibility for how our lifestyles impact the environment.


Contact Information

Twitter: @flightfreeusa

Instagram: @flightfreeusa

Concord, NH-Based Organizer:

Katherine Leswing, Flight Free USA- Eastern States Coordinator,

Other US Organizers:

Ariella Granett, Flight Free USA- Country Coordinator,

Bhima Sheridan, Flight Free USA- Country Coordinator,

Chelle Costello, Flight Free USA- Western States Coordinator,

Autumn Raw, Flight Free USA- Midwestern States Coordinator,

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