As academics, should we worry about our conference carbon footprint? | Sophia Kier-Byfield

A recent international conference was an opportunity to network, but I feel guilty about the waste and emissions

The other day, as I boarded a budget airline plane to attend a conference in Spain, I was overcome with a feeling I’ve come to recognise: carbon-footprint guilt. As a PhD student, this would be my first international conference, an exciting chance to meet fellow researchers in my field – feminism and gender studies – and discuss topics we care about. But as I sat chatting casually with other academics headed the same way, I couldn’t help but worry about how my short trip would harm the environment.

My booking confirmation showed the figures: the outbound flight would release 178kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the return another 168kg. Short flights add up quickly, and airlines such as Ryanair are now ranked among Europe’s top polluters. Off-setting emissions is reasonable, but it’s really just a way of covering our backs.

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Sophia Kier-Byfield is a PhD student at Loughborough University

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