Paper straws, reusable tote bags, precariously-balanced boxes of recycling stacked in kitchen corners. In 2022, we’re all more than familiar with our everyday collective efforts to at least have *some* kind of positive impact on the planet. For most of us, a desire to live more sustainability has long changed our daily habits, from boycotting single use plastic to cutting down on our fast fashion purchases.
Yet, when we log on to Instagram, it can sometimes feel like all our efforts are made in vain, when we see celebrities (and the super rich) appearing to land on the other end of the spectrum. See: touring ridiculously over-stocked pantries and posing for photos on private jets for details.
Conversations around celebrities’ private jet usage in particular have dominated social media in recent weeks, with stats on short flights - and their correspondingly huge CO2 emissions - being reported across the internet. It feels like a shift; while some of us might have previously marvelled at the lavish lives of the rich and famous (and we still do), now fans, followers and critics alike seem to finally want to hold celebrities to account for their role in the climate crisis, and in bigger numbers.
Exhibit A: the launch (and growing popularity) of Twitter account @CelebJets. Started in October 2021 by student Jack Sweeney (who runs a number of “plane-notify bots”, including one tracking just Elon Musk), the automated software uses flight data to track celebrity private jets - reporting on take-off and landing locations as well as flight times. @CelebJets currently boasts 112k followers, but screenshots of its data have gone viral in recent weeks, prompting widespread criticism and - of course - plenty of memes.
Screenshots showing eye-wateringly short flight times (we’re talking single digits) have since gone viral. Previously, we all had some level of awareness of celebs’ fondness for taking luxury flights. But there’s something about seeing such frequent (and often extremely short) flight times written down that’s hammered home how wasteful a lot of their boujee lifestyles feel. And it’s, rightly, caused a wider-spread discussion than we’ve previously seen, with many now moving to publicly demand that celebs change their habits once and for all.
Scroll through @CelebJets and you’ll see various big names having their flight patterns monitored, from Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott, to Kim Kardashian, Drake and Mark Wahlberg. Throughout June and July, the bot reported that Drake’s personal Boeing 767 had taken a seven-minute flight, a 12-minute flight and a 14-minute flight, with all three taking place between Toronto and nearby city Hamilton. What’s more, the bot then claimed that the 14-minute flight had used 1,613 litres of fuel and caused four tonnes of CO2 emissions - which The Guardian reports is equal to the global average annual carbon footprint for one person.
Talk of Drake’s repeated short flights quickly circulated on social media - prompting backlash - causing the rapper to respond in an Instagram comment. He wrote, “This is just them moving planes to whatever airport they are being stored at for anyone who was interested in the logistics… nobody takes that flight.” However, his defence didn’t quite, err, land - with critics arguing that empty flights are even more wasteful than those with passengers on.
Meanwhile, Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott came under fire last month for an Instagram picture shared on Kylie’s account, showing the couple posing in front of two planes alongside the caption, “you wanna take mine or yours?” Critics were quick to call the couple out for the post, with one sarcastically commenting, “Your waste of gas emissions or mine?" Meanwhile, others argued that the post feels even more out-of-touch given the current cost of living hikes, with one comment reading, "This display of wealth is unbelievable. So detached from the common person's struggles."
Kylie and Travis’ flights have also featured on @CelebJets, with one July report claiming that a flight taken on Kylie’s jet lasted just 12 minutes. More than just focusing on wasteful emissions caused by short private jet flights, critics have also honed in on the contrast between our everyday small efforts to be more sustainable, versus the habits of the rich and famous. As one Twitter user wrote, “I always feel so guilty when I’m not being environmentally conscious and then I remember me not buying scent boosting beads (pretty unnecessary) and coke in plastic containers isn’t gonna make a difference when Kylie Jenner is taking 10-minute flights.”
And that’s exactly the point: while being more sustainable is something we should all be participating in, it’s true that some people have more sway than others. It’s hard to see much point in opting for one measly paper straw when other people are emitting four tonnes of carbon in 14 minutes. And while some celebrities are already contributing to the climate crisis at higher rates, they also have more power and influence when it comes to actually making a difference. Not just in adapting their habits but also in using their voices and platforms for change - the good kind.
And perhaps the backlash has already started to take some effect; following growing conversations surrounding celebrities’ private jet usage, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker were recently spotted on a commercial flight from LAX to Spokane, Washington, according to reports, after previously flying (and posing for pictures) on private jets.
It's something we could do with seeing from more celebs - though it might still be just one small aspect of the lavish lives of the rich and famous. As for the rest of us, we'll keep chipping away with our tote bags and recycling boxes for now.
We have reached out to Kylie, Travis and Drake’s reps for comment.
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