Offsetting our Flight Emissions
Updated: Apr 3
The importance of travel in my life
My love for travel and the whole industry started in my teenage years, when, after reading a book, I started dreaming about owning a B&B in the country side.
My course at university then focussed on different cultures and my specialization was Tourism & Hospitality Management, and all my jobs since then have been in the travel industry.
Plane travel enables me to see my friends and family relatively quickly, despite living in another country. It allows us to explore the world and learn about different countries and culture, gives us perspective to where and how we live.
I am so grateful and lucky to be able to afford to travel the world (considering only about 5% of the world's population has had this privilege).
It is such a shame that something so beneficial, both for ourselves and the many countries that depend on tourism, has such a high environmental cost.
A reality check
If we want to reach the global target of less than 2 degrees warming, then the anticipated individual carbon budget (by 2050) is 1.5 tons per year per person.
A long-haul flight from London to Bangkok, for example, emits 1.01 tons of co2 per person. That would already be pretty much the entire yearly budget gone.
Closer destinations, so-called “staycations” or alternative travel methods, like train and coach travel should definitely be always considered nowadays, but what else could we do, when we still want to get on that flight, but don’t want to be such a burden on the environment?
When I became more interested in environmental issues and our individual carbon footprints, I started researching about what you could do to also help, or at least reduce the effect on, the environment despite traveling so much. And I found so many great organisations that offer carbon calculators and the option to offset your emissions.
What does offsetting co2 mean exactly?
Our lifestyles nowadays emit co2 for many actions – driving, food supply, heating the house and of course, flying, just to name a few.
Offsetting means that you calculate the co2 emissions you as an individual are responsible for and invest in projects all around the world that work to reduce co2 emissions, to balance out your own carbon footprint.
So you can offset anything in your life, but I think, as plane travel is such a big one, it makes sense to start with that one.
"What kind of projects am I supporting?"
It depends. There’s many organisations out there that offer carbon calculators and offsetting options.
Some focus on tree-planting/forestry projects, others on renewable energy projects – funding solar and wind energy.
Some of them even invest your contribution in research for alternative fuel options and advanced technologies.
It’s worth having a search on Ecosia and choosing an organisation with projects that are close to your heart, but generally all of them work to mitigate climate change and that’s what we all want, right?
I am aware that this has been a thing for years now and I do remember seeing the “Carbon Offset” Buttons at Check-out when I had booked a flight online, but back then I just didn’t really bother finding out what it means and I certainly didn’t care as much as I do today.
I also know that sometimes saving up for a flight is already hard enough (I’ve been there; writing out daily budgets in my phone notes and desperately trying to stick to them...), but the contribution are pretty small compared to the ticket price (as an example, the contribution for that roundtrip from London to Bangkok starts at £9.11), and being aware of and taking responsibility for the environmental impacts that we’re having and giving if and when we can, is an important step in the right direction.
Many people argue that offsetting is not a solution, but rather purchasing a “license to pollute”. And yes, offsetting alone is not the solution to the problem, but a step towards carbon-neutrality and, frankly said, better than doing nothing. The amount of people taking flights are projected to increase within the next few years and at the moment, only 4-8% of airline customers choose to offset their journey.
"What else can I do?"
It also helps to just stay informed about what is happening in the industry and what is being done to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel.
One of my favourite things to do (I’m not even lying...) when I’m online, is signing petitions, because it is so easy, quick and can be so effective! Here in the UK you will get a response from the government at 10,000 signatures and your topic will be brought up at parliament with 100,00 signatures.
Regarding air travel, there was a petition in 2017 that helped stop the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) from introducing a scheme to switch to “carbon neutral fuel” by using palm oil fuel. With more than 180,000 signatures the petition helped expose the green-washing of this plan, which has consequently been rejected.
So just take 2 minutes next time you see a petition and sign – you could be that last needed signature to make a difference 😊
At the end of the day, I am not trying to sweettalk plane travel. It generates a lot of co2 emissions, regardless of how much importance I have given to it in my life. However, considering how many people still fly regardless (me included) and how few of us are offsetting, I think it's the least we can do for our planet.
PS: I’ve linked some of my f organisations to offset your next plane journey, let’s all start taking more responsibility and make the world a greener place!
https://www.goclimateneutral.org/ (this one is a monthly contribution scheme)