Travelling to Baku – what about the carbon?

As we start gathering our papers and presentations and think about packing for our journey to Baku for the World Heritage Committee meeting later this week, we thought we’d share some of our wrestling with our conscience prior to our decision to go…

Ideally, of course, we’d have preferred not to fly to Baku (neither of us has flown for years).

As we all now know, air travel makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, and there are several alternative ways to travel that have lower environmental impacts.

Coincidentally, lots of football fans were in Baku recently, so there were lots of articles around on how to travel on a budget (and not fly) to Baku, which we researched exhaustively.

Eventually, however, it became apparent that a no-fly trip would take weeks and we couldn’t get there and back in time to meet other commitments (bluedot, graduation ceremonies and more).

So – we wanted to think about how we could do something to make up for the carbon emissions related to our flight (bearing in mind that many people are not completely convinced by the idea of carbon offsetting).

One thing that we have to make clear is that this is a personal decision, and not something that has been made by our institution, the University of Manchester. The University has some great sustainability initiatives, not only across its research, but also as part of the way that it carries out its day-to-day work. That said, there are also struggles with many climate issues, including the environmental impact of academic travel facing everyone in the Higher Education Sector.

In terms of our personal ‘balancing’ of the carbon impact of our journey, we decided we have to do something significant and long-term in our own lives. We already buy both our domestic electricity and gas from a renewable energy supplier. Tim has a fully electric car and I have a plug-in hybrid car (which I plug in – and try to run on electricity as much as possible). We charge both of them at home when we can, from our ‘green’ electricity supply.

We’ve both significantly reduced our meat consumption, and have started growing our own fruit & veg (although there is a battle with slugs, snails, birds, rabbits and squirrels in terms of getting any of it into the kitchen…).

So – our new initiatives include:

Retiring our fuel-burning fires

Even though we have, to date, used ‘sustainable’ logs in both our wood fires here at home, we have decided that they still produce too much particulate air pollution and don’t burn the fuel in a ‘clean’ way. They’re lovely in the winter, but we need to find another way to provide the local warmth.

New windows

This is an obvious one. Our house has double glazing, but it’s very old with a smaller gap than now recommended – so we have decided to pull forward the replacement programme. We should have the new windows installed within the next month.

New heating system

This is another obvious one – except that, instead of installing a new, more efficient, gas boiler, we’re working out whether to install a domestic air-source heat pump. This one is going to take us a bit longer to implement. We’ll try to do it within the next 18 months. In the meantime, we’ve reduced the temperature on the thermostat by a few degrees.

Raising awareness

Another thing that we will do is work to raise awareness of the Climate Emergency facing us all. We do this a lot already, via our social media posts, talks that we give and (mostly) via our bluedot festival – but there is a lot more to do, so we will keep working at it.

We’ll keep you posted….

Teresa Anderson and Tim O’Brien