The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The plight of Taylor Swift’s carbon footprint: Is she the problem?

Meryl Resurreccion

Whether you love her or hate her, Taylor Swift is undeniably one of the leading pop icons of the 21st century. Since the release of her first album in 2006, her fame has only grown exponentially.

Originally a country music artist, Swift marketed her shift to pop with her album “1989.” Hit songs “Shake it Off,” “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood” made the Billboard Top 100 after her rebranding.

Swift has continued to maintain relevance through strategic remarketing tactics, but her return to the spotlight can be attributed to the ongoing rerelease of her original studio albums.

Branded as “Taylor’s Version,” she first re-released her album “Fearless” in 2021 and is continuing to do so as she travels internationally on her Eras Tour.

Swift’s influence reaches all corners of the music community, and the University is no exception. The Instagram account @uiucswifties has amassed over 1,700 followers since its creation in January 2022.

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Liz LeBeau, senior in LAS, started the account with her late best friend. She said that it now serves as both an homage and a setting for Taylor Swift-related memes.

“The song ‘Fearless’ is less about new love and what [Swift] meant it to be,” LeBeau said. “Now it’s kind of a tribute to my best friend. Whenever I hear it, I think of her.”

LeBeau said she appreciates the depth of Swift’s music and lyrics, and the ways they expand beyond the simple love songs they may come across as.

With the increased use of her private jet for her tour and visits with Kansas City Chiefs tight end and boyfriend Travis Kelce, environmentalists have caused a stir, calling Swift out for her carbon emissions.

“Taking really short flights is unnecessary,” said Sachi Tillu, sophomore in SIB. “I’m sure she has cars, or enough money to have people drive those cars, whatever she wants.”

Swift emitted 8,300 metric tons — about 1,800 times the average person’s annual emission — of CO2 in 2022 according to Carbon Market Watch.

A study by Yard claimed Swift was the No. 1 celebrity responsible for CO2 emissions in 2022. The study stated she spent nearly 23,000 minutes in the air — about 16 days.

“I do think she deserves the heat she gets. However I also think there’s nuance to that,” LeBeau said. “With people like Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, it’s like crickets. I feel like it’s a bit weird that she’s the only one being called out for it.”

George Taylor, sophomore in FAA, is an active member of Students for Environmental Concerns. SECS is an RSO on campus, and its mission is “dedicated to environmental activism and justice,” according to its website.

Taylor views big artists like Swift as divided into three categories: the art, the artist and the brand they represent.

“Taylor Swift’s not really promoting herself or her art,” Taylor said. “She’s promoting that public image that allows her to sell merchandise and be in the public spotlight.”

Morgan Paoli, junior in LAS, is a self-proclaimed Swiftie. She acknowledges Swift’s carbon footprint but stresses the importance of holding all celebrities accountable for their environmental actions.

“I think Taylor Swift has had a lot of people really put her under a microscope as compared to a lot of other celebrities,” Paoli said. “Do I think she could do a lot better with her carbon footprint? Yes, but I think she’s held to very unrealistic standards compared to other artists, especially male artists.”

Swift’s publicists responded to her 2022 carbon footprint report, reporting to BBC that Swift uses carbon credits to offset emissions from traveling via private jet.

Carbon credits can be realized in the forms of reforestation, renewable energy and other combative methods against climate change. Swift purchased double the required amount of carbon credits needed to offset emissions from the Eras Tour, a spokesperson of hers said.

However, carbon credits also receive a substantial amount of criticism, with many arguing that they provide an easy out for rich people to maintain their pollutive lifestyles.

“People give too much credit to celebrities for buying carbon offsets,” Tillu said. “I don’t think that carbon neutral is something that should be so revered.”

Another big player in publicizing Swift’s carbon emissions is Jack Sweeney, a college student at the University of Central Florida. 

Sweeney quickly rose to fame in 2022 when he began to track A-list celebrities’ private jets, publishing their activity online.

Sweeney obtains his information from the Federal Aviation Association’s public records and proceeds to upload them to social media. In an interview with BBC, Sweeney said he believed “anybody should be able to see where (Swift’s) private jet is headed and how often it flies.” 

Swift’s legal team threatened legal action against Sweeney for “stalking and harassing behaviors,” which has brought up many conflicting opinions on the situation.

“I don’t think the cease-and-desist was the right way to do that. That’s just gonna cause a Streisand effect,” LeBeau said. “But I also think (Sweeney) is really weird for doing that. This may just be empathy, but as a woman, I would not want my location being tracked all the time.”

LeBeau also brought up hypocrisy when discussing Sweeney. Mark Cuban offered Sweeney friendship and business advice in exchange for him stopping the jet-tracking, according to CNBC.

Sweeney’s morals have been called into question as he accepted Cuban’s offer for free, halting the tracking of his jet, but refused a monetary offer from Elon Musk asking the same thing.

Taylor shared he thought the cease-and-desist letter was ridiculous, agreeing that accessible public records have the right to be seen by the public.

“He’s not attacking Taylor Swift as a person. He’s never made any public claims about who she is or what she does, he just makes information readily available,” Taylor said. “It’s irresponsible to confuse that as an attack on Taylor as a person or an attack on Taylor’s autonomy.”

Sweeney has since stopped posting about Swift’s flight information, but he continues to run his account, @celebrityjets, where he tracks a variety of A-list celebrities, according to The Cut.

Whether Sweeney is in the right or not, LeBeau stresses the importance of calling out big corporations.

“Let’s talk about politicians cutting the EPA or the oil companies who are literally killing the planet and doing so knowingly,” LeBeau said. “They’re inventing things, like the term ‘carbon footprint,’ to put the blame on us, the individual, instead of the corporation.”

In Nov. 2023, the Republicans of the House of Representatives passed a bill that cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 39%, the lowest it had been in decades, according to The Hill.

Additionally, the big oil company BP has been deemed responsible for the popularization of the carbon footprint concept, according to WBUR. By focusing on the individual, BP redirects awareness away from themselves.

Paoli advocates for bringing awareness to celebrity carbon emissions and the importance of pushing them to change their actions.

The mass attention towards Swift’s carbon footprint may have been the push necessary to start holding everyone accountable for their actions.

“This needs to be a global initiative with all celebrities in general,” Paoli said. “It may start with Taylor Swift, but it’s a long journey.”


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About the Contributor
Sam Gregerman
Sam Gregerman, Senior Feature Reporter
Hi! My name is Sam, and I’m a sophomore majoring in English with a minor in creative writing. I was hired as a features writer in Fall 2023 after transferring to Illinois, and I began writing for buzz at the beginning of Spring 2024. I’m very excited to step into the role of Senior Feature Reporter and continue my contributions to The Daily Illini! If I’m not in the office, I’m probably next door at the Pi Phi house where I live, reading or watching reality TV. If you have any Champaign-Urbana events or topics you’d like covered, please send me an email using the button below! It is my goal to amplify community voices to the best of my ability.
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