Carbon offsetting for travel, mainly getting on planes, seems to be one of the main conversations of 2020 so far. Although everyone daydreams about escaping winter for sunnier climes, there’s more genuine thought around about what impact our travel bucket list has on the planet.
Airlines are fully on the bandwagon now, offering carbon offsetting schemes as part of the booking process. There is also a whole host of websites where you can calculate your carbon footprint for a journey, and make a contribution to offset that impact.
So, does carbon offsetting work?
It’s a positive step in the right direction. It makes us all more conscious of our travel, and aware that getting on a plane comes at a cost. It doesn’t undo the initial impact, but it does balance it out with a positive, green contribution.
What’s the “but” then?
Some people argue that it’s like putting a plaster on a gaping wound, i.e. it’s covering up something that needs a much bigger solution.
Other people would say it’s a cop-out, and disincentives individuals from making more sustainable choices, and allows companies to get away with not finding more sustainable solutions.
OK, I get that. But for now, I’d still rather offset my carbon footprint than stop travelling altogether! What can I do?
Often, there are two options: 1) To plant the number of trees required to balance out the carbon emitted as a result of your travel, or 2) To donate towards a sustainable project which will decrease carbon emissions to the same tune as your impact. This is usually a personal preference. Some prefer the idea of planting trees, evoking the green lushness to act as the lungs of our planet. The con with this option is that trees often take 20-40years to reach maturity and absorb C02 at the rate which we need them to. The second option can have a quicker impact, by helping communities (usually in developing countries) to reduce carbon emissions from waste management to efficient cooking equipment to agricultural methods.
Which websites are best?
The most accurate calculators are usually on airlines’ own websites, because they calculate your impact based on the aircraft itself, your class of travel, and the distance travelled. However, they do tend to be more restricted with less “interesting” community projects - if that’s what interests you more. If the airline website isn’t for you, then here are a couple of other options.