The Sustainability Journey: Is it sustainable to fly to Copenhagen for the climate change conference?

How sustainable is it to fly by airplane to Copenhagen, Denmark for the United Nations conference on climate change?
Written by Evan Kopelson, Contributor on

Evan Kopelsontook the plunge in November to be sustainable. That leap meant he said “So long!” to his Beverly Hills lifestyle to live in a yoga pod in a communal environment. “The Sustainability Journey” is a window into Evan’s world. Here’s his fourth journal entry. (Read the firstsecond and third.)

How sustainable is it to fly by airplane to Copenhagen, Denmark for the United Nations conference on climate change?

At the heart of the issue: what's green, versus what's sustainable.

According to TerraPass.com, a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Copenhagen (CPH) making two stops is 11,213 miles and will emit 5,273 lbs. of carbon dioxide.

I’m choosing a flight with two stops because as of yet, I still don’t have enough funds to make the trip. The absolute cheapest flight I’ve been able to find is on LOT (Polish Airlines) and has stops in Chicago and Warsaw, Poland before reaching Copenhagen.

Since I’m determined to get to COP15, I’m looking for the absolute cheapest way to get there. Even if I have to fly LOT Airlines.

TerraPass is a great website which allows you to calculate your carbon footprint and purchase carbon offsets, mathematically making a trip carbon neutral. While I can’t calculate my carbon footprint for the short cab ride to the airport (less than 10 miles), I did make some rough calculations to see what happened when I moved from my luxury apartment to the yoga pod I mentioned in my last post.

In my old apartment, my electricity and gas accounted for approximately 28,834 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year. I’ve been able to cut that down dramatically to around 1,602 lbs. per year by moving into the pod.

That's just 5 percent of what it used to be.

In terms of car usage, I recently went “car-lite” and outfitted my bicycle with a rear rack and paneers (bags that clip onto the bike’s rear rack) and now use my bike almost exclusively for local errands within a 5-mile radius.

TerraPass says a flight emitting approximately 6,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide can be offset for $35.70.

I can afford $35.70 to balance my greenhouse gas emissions.

My flight to Copenhagen will be green.

But will it be sustainable?

(Is it even achievable?)

I've been asking for “micro-donations” to help me pay for my trip to Copenhagen. You know the old adage, "If everyone gives a dollar..."

So I made a video and posted it to my Facebook page and website. My thinking: I have over 1,000 Facebook friends and another thousand on Twitter.

If just half of my friends give two dollars, or a small handful give $100...I'll make it to Copenhagen.

The angels are already revealing themselves.

Yesterday, I received a completely unexpected Fedex package with a $100 check from an old friend from college. He asked to be kept anonymous, but said it was inspiring what I’ve been accomplishing by setting out on these so-called “impossible dreams” and he wanted to help me get to Copenhagen.

My dear friend Laura saw my video on Facebook and said to count her in for $100.

Including my own $100, I'm $300 closer...but about $1,700 away, with taxes, fees and ground transport while in Copenhagen. That doesn't even count accommodation, which I'm trying to seek out for free (I was contacted yesterday with an option to pay around $500 plus linen rental for a shared bunk bed-type accommodation, but a free couch is a free couch.)

If I can’t get to Copenhagen, the sustainability of the trip is moot.

So why is it so important that I get to Copenhagen? Well, I'll tell you.

The 15th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Frameworks Conventions on Climate Change will take place from Dec. 7 to 18. That's right -- in less than half a week, the whole world will gather and meet, and hopefully reach a binding agreement on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a sustainable low carbon, clean energy economy.

Deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent  of all greenhouse gas pollution. Electric cars can save the economy and strengthen national security. Yet we’re producing more polluting cars now than ever, and deforestation continues at unprecedented rates.

I’m focused on Copenhagen because there is information there that needs to be brought back to the people. I want to make sure stories from COP15 get back here to America. I have a particular interest in making sure critical information, opinions, and announcements are made public, because from my perspective, each of us can make a difference.

It’s not just about what countries, or even corporations, do. It’s about the lifestyle choices we all make. Each of us, every day.

One big factor in my quest for Copenhagen is that my personal greenhouse emissions traveling there will be offset, both by purchasing carbon offsets and by raising awareness about climate change issues. I hope my personal story of giving up luxury to live sustainably in community, will inspire others to take action in their own lives.

Taking action, no matter how small, is important.

If everyone reading this article right now remembers to unplug their phone chargers from the wall when they're not in use, it could make a huge impact.

If readers call the city and ask for a “green bin” outside with their black and blue bins, they can dispose of compostable waste (fruits, vegetables, egg shells, and organic materials) and reduce or eliminate waste going to landfills.

If I can raise the money needed to get to Copenhagen in the next four days, I have the chance to inspire others to take action to reduce their own carbon footprints.

That will make going to Copenhagen the sustainable and green thing to do.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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