Traveling can be absolutely life-changing, but it’s important to be aware of the environmental impacts associated with flying and how it contributes to climate change. That’s where carbon offsetting comes in. By offsetting your flights, you can help reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment.
Flights account for around 2.5% of global carbon dioxide production, and that number is growing. The greenhouse gases emitted by planes at high altitudes cause more damage than emissions made on the ground. While electric planes and biofuels are being researched, it’s a slow process. In the meantime, airlines are taking steps to increase their efficiency by reducing weight, carrying more passengers, and using tailwinds.
What exactly is carbon offsetting?
It’s when people pay to ‘offset’ the emissions their flights produce. Engines produce greenhouse gases, with carbon dioxide being the most common. Carbon offsetting is the concept of trying to make up for this amount by reducing it elsewhere through projects that reduce carbon levels.
There are two types of carbon offsetting: forestry and energy projects. Forestry projects focus on stopping deforestation or planting new trees, as trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Energy projects aim to reduce the use of fossil fuels by investing in energy-efficient products and renewable energy sources.
What does it cost?
The cost of carbon offsetting varies depending on the flight duration. Generally, shorter flights cost around $7-10 per person, while longer international flights can be $60 or more. Factors such as layovers or flying in first or business class can increase the price. Economy class is usually more cost-effective for carbon offsetting compared to business class.
I want to carbon offset. How should I do it?
Many airlines offer carbon offsetting as an option when purchasing your tickets. Some reputable airlines in this regard include Qantas, Air Canada, KLM, and Austrian Airlines. You can check their websites to see the projects they fund through carbon offsetting and how they calculate the cost. Some airlines even have certifications like Gold or Carbon Standard.
Alternatively, you can choose to go through a separate company for carbon offsetting. In the US, Terrapass is a reputable option, while Atmosfair is a wonderful choice in the EU. Going through a separate company allows you to have more control over where your money goes.
How else can I lower my environmental impact?
In addition to carbon offsetting, there are other ways to lower your environmental impact while traveling. Short flights are known to be significant polluters, so whenever possible, consider taking trains, which are a more environmentally friendly option. Trains can often be faster than airplanes when you factor in airport wait times, especially in Europe.
The airline you choose also matters. Look for airlines that have fuel-efficient planes and carry more passengers, as this helps reduce emissions. There are online rankings available to help you choose the best airline for your travels. Fun fact: Delta and United are ranked the worst regional networks.
Whenever possible, opt for direct flights to avoid unnecessary take-offs and landings, which consume more fuel.
Is carbon offsetting worth it?
While some argue that carbon offsetting is just a way to alleviate guilt without changing behaviors, it’s still a step in the right direction. If you plan to continue traveling, carbon offsetting is a great starting point to reduce the environmental implications of your journeys.
There are many other lifestyle changes we can make to help the environment, and incorporating them into our daily lives is crucial. Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing. Let’s make a positive impact on the environment and offset our carbon emissions from travels.