‘Green’ on the ground but not in the air: Pro-environmental attitudes are related to household behaviours but not discretionary air travel

Ian Alcock*, Mathew P. White, Tim Taylor, Deborah F. Coldwell, Matthew O. Gribble, Karl L. Evans, Adam Corner, Sotiris Vardoulakis, Lora E. Fleming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


The rise in greenhouse gas emissions from air travel could be reduced by individuals voluntarily abstaining from, or reducing, flights for leisure and recreational purposes. In theory, we might expect that people with pro-environmental value orientations and concerns about the risks of climate change, and those who engage in more pro-environmental household behaviours, would also be more likely to abstain from such voluntary air travel, or at least to fly less far. Analysis of two large datasets from the United Kingdom, weighted to be representative of the whole population, tested these associations. Using zero-inflated Poisson regression models, we found that, after accounting for potential confounders, there was no association between individuals’ environmental attitudes, concern over climate change, or their routine pro-environmental household behaviours, and either their propensity to take non-work related flights, or the distances flown by those who do so. These findings contrasted with those for pro-environmental household behaviours, where associations with environmental attitudes and concern were observed. Our results offer little encouragement for policies aiming to reduce discretionary air travel through pro-environmental advocacy, or through ‘spill-over’ from interventions to improve environmental impacts of household routines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-147
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The contributions of IA, MW, TT, SV and LF were funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Environmental Change and Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), and in collaboration with the University of Exeter, University College London, and the Met Office. Neither the BHPS data collectors nor the UK Data Archive bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here. DFC was funded by a studentship grant awarded to KLE from the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) programme, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as part of the UK's Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) programme. The contributions of MOG were supported in part by a P30 Core Center Grant (P30 ES019776) from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to Emory University. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health, Public Health England, the BESS Directorate or NERC.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Attitude-behaviour consistency
  • Climate change concerns
  • Discretionary air travel
  • Pro-environmental behaviour
  • Pro-environmental spill-over
  • Voluntary air travel


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