Always interested in science as a young boy, I never wanted to use fossil energy because it is a non-renewable resource, and burning fossil fuels creates harmful gases. The first decision I took was not to drive a car as long as cars use combustion engines. Some compromises became necessary: For my academic career, I decided to take some intercontinental flights. I also started to use air travel for private holidays, once or twice a year. When I bought an old house, it took some years before I could replace the oil heating by an electric heat pump with geothermal probe. Flying remained the largest part of my personal carbon footprint.
In 2017, I decided to completely stop flying, both in my professional and my private life. When invited to an international conference which is not reachable by train and ferry, I offer to provide my talk via videoconferencing. If this is not accepted, I don’t participate. If we as researchers in the field of sustainability don’t start reducing our personal carbon emissions, who else will do it?
Lorenz M. Hilty is Professor of Informatics and Sustainability at the Department of Informatics at the University of Zurich (UZH) and Scientist at the Technology and Society Lab of Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. His research is focused on applications of information and communication Technologies for sustainability (ICT4S), sustainability assessment of digital technologies, methods of modeling and simulation for sustainability research, and methods of ethical decision-making and technology assessment in the context of digitalization. He is the author of more than 200 publications in the field of digital technologies and sustainability. He also serves as the sustainability delegate of UZH.