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Celebrities Have A Duty To Reduce Their Carbon Footprints, For The People Who Can’t

As a longtime Swiftie, you can imagine my surprise when I heard the news that Taylor Swift has officially ranked first on the list of celebrities with the worst private jet carbon dioxide emissions so far this year. 

Taylor beat out celebrities like Jay-Z, Kim Kardashian, and Oprah Winfrey by a landslide, with her emissions (8,294 tons) being over 1,000 tons above the #2 spot-holder, Floyd Mayweather. Funnily enough, Kylie Jenner, who was recently criticized for taking a 17-minute flight on her private jet, didn’t even make the list — so if she’s a “climate criminal,” everyone on this list should be deemed one as well.

To make matters worse, Taylor hasn’t personally commented on the issue yet — only her reps, who claim that it’s “blatantly wrong” to hold her responsible for all of these trips because her jet is “regularly loaned out to other individuals.”

As usual, the internet finds all of this both hilarious and frustrating — and I have to agree, particularly with the latter. The fact is, Taylor is responsible for that jet and all of its trips, no matter if she’s on the plane or not. And we can’t let our love for her — among other celebrities — cloud our judgment. 

It’s no secret that climate change is a serious issue, but many don’t realize how dire the situation actually is. With each day that passes, climate change becomes more threatening to our lives. This summer, the world has seen record-breaking temperatures that have already resulted in thousands of deaths; heat waves are worsening faster than we can even count; by 2025, two thirds of the world may face water shortages. And planes are among the worst vehicles for the environment — in just seven months, Taylor’s private jet emissions are 1,185 times worse than the average person’s total emissions are in a year.

It’s time for celebrities to start taking ownership for their faults, and use their wealth and power to help deter the climate crisis — because they have the money and resources to do so, unlike us college students. As much as we prioritize sustainability, the reality is that students often can’t afford to reduce their carbon emissions and become greener, at least not to the extent that the wealthy can. This just makes it more important for the people who are able to (ahem, celebrities) to take action.

Because many students attend colleges far from their home, a lot of us need to fly to and from school, and don’t have sustainable traveling options. But even so, commercial flights still don’t have nearly as bad of a carbon footprint as private jets. And as great as they are, electric cars are expensive, and can be impractical in a university town due to the lack of available charging stations. These limits often don’t apply to celebrities — especially ones rich enough to have endless electric cars and personal drivers.

But these sustainability roadblocks for students don’t only apply to travel. As much as I hate to admit it, we sometimes have to choose fast fashion brands because they’re cheaper. And we don’t always have the resources to engage in low-waste or no-waste eating habits, because packaged foods are usually less expensive (and it takes time to find and cook sustainable meals). Celebrities not only have more money, but more resources — they can buy any kind of food or clothing they want, or even hire a private chef to do the work of finding and cooking sustainable ingredients for them. So, even though some celebrities clearly haven’t made enough efforts, it can be easier for them to live sustainably.

And to those who assert that celebrities need these private jets for security reasons, let me ask you this: Did Taylor really need all of the 170 flights she has taken so far this year? I assure you, the answer is no. Given that the average flight time was only 80 minutes, a large portion were likely within driving distance (and/or taken when the plane was empty, so the cost to the environment is far outweighing the benefits for Taylor's personal security). And for longer flights — particularly the ones to attend events — she could have even “carpooled” (or "planepooled") with other celebrities who also have their own private jets. When you’ve got fame and riches, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Take Billie Eilish, for example: a famous Gen Z'er known to prioritize sustainability far more than Millennial celebrities. Her 2022 Met Gala dress was upcycled and no waste, her world tour follows a recycling and no-plastic policy, and she has taken major steps to teach her fans about climate change. She continuously sets a precedent for other celebrities to follow in the future. I never thought I’d say this, but take notes, Taylor.

It is true that Taylor has made efforts to become more sustainable in the past — like an environmentally friendly fashion line she helped produce with Stella McCartney in 2019. But regardless of her past efforts, Taylor’s private jet usage is still a big misstep on her part — one she should take accountability for, and remedy for the future, especially if she's actually serious about working to live more sustainably.

For many of us college students, it’s disheartening to see people with endless power and financial freedom use it in such a harmful way. Meanwhile, Gen Z climate activists see the importance of a more altruistic perspective, and we do what we can to save the planet — but until celebrities step it up, we can’t move very far.

Hey! I'm a second-year Global Business & Digital Arts student at the University of Waterloo, a National Writer for Her Campus, and the Senior Editor for HC Waterloo. When I'm not writing, you'll probably find me reading the newest Taylor Jenkins Reid book, watching The Office, or eating pizza.
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