Worried about the sustainability of flying? Go sailing instead

Sailing in sea. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Sailing in sea. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

When Greta Thunberg was invited to address the United Nations Climate Action Summit, she refused to fly to New York to do it, instead she took a sailing boat to get there.

The aviation industry is currently suffering from a rather negative perception as people around the globe bemoan the carbon footprint of flying, that aviation emissions have increased by a quarter since 2013, and that basically flying isn’t really all that environmentally friendly.

The Swedes have even invented a word for it - flygskam. It basically means ‘flight shame’, and it seems to be working. Flights in Sweden have dropped by 8% this year, compared to last year, already. The BBC recently reported that flygskam could cut growth in the aviation industry by half, and according to a UBS report, the ‘Greta affect’ has influenced travellers already, with about one in five saying they would reduce their air travel due to issues surrounding climate change.


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Although other experts have pointed out that while this sort of change in community attitudes is helpful for raising awareness about the issues of flying and climate change, it won’t really change much about the industry until major investors and businesses help aviation fund big changes to how planes are powered and flown. It’s not likely that the whole aviation industry will collapse overnight, experts say, but it does need to change, and change quickly.

So, what do you do it you want to have a holiday, but you’re feeling a bit of flygskam? Well, you take a leaf out of Greta’s book, and go sailing instead.

(PHOTO:  Revivo Wellness Resorts)
(PHOTO: Revivo Wellness Resorts)

Try a sailing holiday

There has recently been a lot of growth in the area of Eco Tourism, particularly in the Asian region. Indonesia, for example, has a number of interesting holiday offerings that will give a break in a relaxing, but sustainable and environmentally friendly environment.

The Revivo Wellness Resorts, for example, have a number of locations in the region offering a holiday experience that should be green enough to make a difference. The resorts are relatively eco friendly and sustainable, are plastic free and only use organic natural products. While the main focus is on the ‘wellness’ component - yoga, massage, treatments etc - the Revivo Wellness Cruise offers you a holiday option that makes the most of a nature experience.

According to Revivo, the cruise sails around the Indonesian islands of Raja Ampat, Komodo, Banda, Alor or Kaimana, in a traditional hand-crafted ‘phinisi’ boat. Obviously the boat needs to use a bit of fuel, so the brand has ensured that all the fuel and water tanks are USCG certified so there is no waste going into the ocean, and a sea recovery system is used to make freshwater for the guests during the trip. While the cruise industry in general has been getting a rather bad rap, this option at least attempts to do the right thing.

Another sailing option is to join an Intrepid Sailing Tour which operate in Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia - there are different routes and activities available. Intrepid has always been what they describe as a ‘responsible tourism’ company. The Sailing Tours use catamarans and do the same sort of things with fuel and water tanks. The brand has been carbon-neutral since 2010, and have a foundation that gives money to the countries and areas they operate in for education and environmental programmes.

If you are really up for an adventure, you could try ‘boat hitch-hiking’. This is where you search around for someone who is sailing off into the ocean anyway, and could do with a hand on the boat. There is an enterprising woman named Suzanne who basically does this on the daily. You can read all about how to do it, with tips on finding sailing boats heading out, on her blog.

Learn to Sail

If all this has got you excited about sailing instead of flying, why not actually learn to sail? After all, Singapore is an island.

Singapore Sailing Federation

Adult Basic Sailing Course 2019 (Full Day Training)

4 Full Days (9:30am – 5:30pm)

Pre-requisites: Able to swim 50 metres with a Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Location: Singapore Sailing Federation, 1500 East Coast Parkway, National Sailing Centre, Singapore 468963

Cost: S$535

Constant Wind Seasports

Basic Sailing Course

3 sessions x 4 hours each session

Location: NSRCC Sea Sports Centre, 11 Changi Coast Walk, Singapore 499740

Cost: S$374

Changi Sailing Club

Adult Dinghy Sailing Course

4 full-day (2 Sat & 2 Sun) / 10am – 5pm or customized sessions can be arranged.

Pre-requisites: Open to CSC members & non-members; Able to swim at least 50m without a personal flotation device; Minimum age of 14 years old.

Location: 32 Netheravon Road, Singapore 508508

Cost: S$385.20 (Member) / S$524.30 (Non-Member)

Interested in more eco-friendly holidays? Read our story about the best eco hotels to visit.