Fiona Godlee: Confessions of a climate criminal

I’ve been outed. Not for my exotic sexual preferences, sadly, but for being a climate hypocrite. A West Coast operation called Medgadget has set up a website tracking my travels – they’ve so far documented 12 trips since 1995, including a couple of walks around the corner to give talks in London – and are asking people to report any sightings of me at conferences.

Coming as this does hot on the heels of the outing of Al Gore for having household fuel bills 20 times higher than the average American, I feel that I’ve inadvertently joined the super league. I also feel an unexpected urge to speak in my new buddy’s defence. I’m reliably informed that his 20 bedroom ranch is also the headquarters of his global climate campaign and that activity there has rocketed since the release of his film.

Still, he has held his hands up and said he’s working on bringing the bills down. As for me, without wishing to spoil their fun I’ve offered to help Medgadget track my carbon footprint, which is I’m afraid rather more extensive than they have so far managed to document. Indeed, as I’ve said in my response to them, if this weren’t the case I could be charged with failing to do my job.

I also said I’d use this blog to report how I’m doing in reducing my carbon footprint. So briefly, here’s me, and next time I’ll fill you in on what the BMJ and the Carbon Council have been doing.

I’ve decided to not do any more personal travel by air (I never did much) and to travel by train for business whenever possible. Instead of flying to Rome for a one day meeting in April, I’m going by train. This means taking two days’ holiday either side, so Zach and I are taking the kids to see the Coliseum. The effect on the environment may well be the same.

We’ve moved into the centre of Cambridge so we don’t need to use the car for routine stuff. I’ve bought a Brompton collapsing bike (a fantastic piece of kit) so I don’t drive to the station anymore and don’t take taxis unless in an emergency. Zach has bought a trailer for his bike so the two children cycle behind him to school. I haven’t used my car for months, but we haven’t managed to sell it. We’re obviously asking too much. If anyone wants to buy a dark blue 1999 Renault Laguna, low mileage, for £2000, please get in touch.

We’ve installed secondary glazing, all our lights have low energy light bulbs, computers and televisions get turned off at the wall at night, and now that we’ve almost mastered the art of turning lights off when we leave a room, we’re progressing to not turning them on when we enter – I have the bruises to show for it. Last week I threatened to become a vegetarian after hearing how much water it takes to produce a kilo of meat, but Zach says we must support British farmers (he used to be one) and they can’t make a living on vegetables alone. I’m still thinking about it.

Business travel is proving more difficult. Either I travel or I give up this job. Perhaps it will come to that. Or I use the role to encourage a change in the way we all do things. That was the aim of the editorial that Medgadget has taken such exception to. And I can see their point. First go green, then don’t go. Question: should Al Gore be travelling the world to spread his message about the need not to travel? Or would he achieve more by letting his film do the talking and announcing to the world that he will never again leave his soon-to-be solar and wind powered ranch?

Read Fiona’s previous carbon blog

Fiona Godlee is Editor-in-chief, BMJ.