We all know thatflying is terrible for the environment, but very few of us actually choose to travel differently and reduce our carbon footprint — after all, few modes of transportation are as convenient and fast as air travel. But the Swedes are getting a serious case of “flight shame,” or “flygskam” and are acting on the guilt they experience around flying too much and choosing rail travel to shake off the nasty feeling.
According to the European Environmental Agency, a single plane trip emits an average of 285 grams of carbon dioxide, while trains only emit 14 grams — that’s 20 times as bad.
The movement was spearheaded by famous climate change activist 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who refuses to fly and chose to take the train to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the climate summit in Katowice, Poland. In the wake of Thunberg’s activism and push for more train travel, the hashtag #stayontheground has become increasingly popular on the social media accounts of famous Swedes.
To hammer the guilt in and attempt to shame people into better habits, “an anonymous Swedish Instagram account created in December has been shaming social media profiles and influencers for promoting trips to far-flung destinations, racking up more than 60,000 followers,” according to France 24.
According to SJ, the Swedish national rail operator, there has been a 21 percent spike in train travel bookings this winter, and the government is planning to offer night trains to major European cities by 2022.
It is not, however, clear that “flight shame” is the direct cause of the increase in train bookings. A new airline tax, introduced last year, may have led to a decrease in bookings, as well as the bankruptcy of Swedish airline NextJet, as fewer domestic flights are now available.