map with pinA few weeks ago, internet millionaire Graham Hill wrote an essay for The New York Times about the virtues of “living with less.” Hill explained that he has but a scant six shirts and 10 “shallow bowls” in his 420-square foot New York studio — a lifestyle familiar to many non-millionaires in Manhattan. He raved about how much happier and more simple his life became after he ditched the 3,600-square-foot Seattle residence, the SoHo loft, the turbocharged Volvo, and personal shopper. Thus unencumbered, he traveled the world with Olga, an “Andorran beauty.” His life was full of love and adventure.

As Hamilton Nolan wrote at Gawker, “It’s easy not to have material things when you can just buy whatever you need, whenever you need it.” And while Hill tells us that consumerism is “pushing our planet to the brink,” he admits to at least one lingering climate sin — a not-so-little travel habit.

I’m in no position to scold. I was once a frequent flier too. As the daughter of a pilot, I spent the first 30 years of my life jetting around the globe, never stopping to consider the climate consequences of my travel habit. Then, two years ago, I decided to quit cold turkey during an experiment that turned my world inside out.

My pledge was simple: to spend a year staying put. I swore off air travel and drew a 100-mile radius circle around my little farm in western Colorado. For 365 days, I’d live inside this “100-mile habitat.”


For most of Earth’s inhabitants, staying put isn’t a choice, but a simple fact of life. Only about 5 percent of the world’s population has ever boarded an airplane. Still, some of us 5 percenters have come to view globetrotting as our birthright.

The numbers are sobering, however. The German carbon offset group Atmosfair has calculated that if our aim is to limit global warming to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels by 2050, the average person on Earth should emit no more than 2.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Ride your bike to the brew pub all you want, but one round trip from Seattle to New York will set you back 2.3 tons of CO2.