I’ve heard the words ‘carbon offsetting’ lingering here and there when talking about traveling and searching for flights. But I never really understood what it all means in practice. I’ve always been a bit dubious about people paying their way out of guilt, and this seemed like something that would go into that box.
But let’s not judge until we have the whole picture, right folks? Thankfully our amazing Grow & Glow community of bloggers and creators has people who are more knowledgeable on the subject. So, the lovely Jess Rigg from jessrigg.com agreed to open this issue up for us with the following guest post.
Hi, I’m Jess! I write about travel and sustainable living over on jessrigg.com.
Today I’m going to be chatting about Carbon Offsetting as a way to make your travel more eco-friendly.
On a whole, flying is a pretty un-eco way of travelling – It’s much more sustainable to take a train, ferry or coach. This isn’t always an option though, flying is normally cheaper and much quicker than alternative methods. Saving both is a priority for a lot of people, including me!
What Is Carbon Offsetting?
Carbon offsetting is where you calculate your emissions and then buy ‘credits’ from a company that supports a project such as tree planting or renewable energy to cancel out the emissions from your flight, travel or daily living.
Offsetting shouldn’t be used as an excuse to continue flying and living unsustainable. You should strive to reduce your daily carbon offset and look at other sustainable travel options however for those unavoidable flights, it can be a good way to balance it out.
Which Projects Should You Support?
Not every carbon offsetting program is equal though, and it’s important to consider which actually works best.
There are many different projects across the world but I prefer to offset with projects in my own country as there have been cases of communities being displaced in favour of tree planting projects in the Amazon or Kenya (Read more on that here). Which is, really, worse than the carbon you omitted in the first place.
Other projects include wind and solar energy or containing methane gas from landfill. There are also more niche options such as providing communities with clean-burning stoves (Cool Effect’s project in Honduras) or Biogas Digesters for farmers which redirect methane into useful energy sources (Cool Effect’s project in Vietnam).
Calculating Your Carbon Emissions
Before offsetting your carbon emissions, you have to know what they actually are. This is the bit I personally found quite tricky, as each website gives a different emission calculation.
I tried 3 different sites to calculate the emissions for my return flights from London to Los Angeles this summer. Here are the results…
Atmosfair: This gave me the biggest emission estimate which was 4.6 tonnes and would cost €107 to offset with them.
CarbonFootprint.com: At just over half of Atmosfair’s estimate, this site told me I need to offset 2.63 tonnes which is €19 on their site.
FlyGreen: This is a super cool site which works both as a means of offsetting and as a price comparison site that you can book you flight through, and then they offset it for you from their own funds. They told me that my flight was emitting €2.65 tonnes and that it would be €38 to offset.
I think it’s best to use a few different sites to calculate your emissions and not just taking the first number. There is still a lot of uncertainty about how to calculate the accurate emissions but with the offsetting growing substantially, I don’t think we’re far off knowing.
If you don’t want to go through an accredited company, you can use donations as another way to offset you emissions. Finding an environmental charity or tree planting service can work too.
Generally one tree will offset 1 tonne of carbon over its lifetime so after calculating your emissions, you can plant as many as you need.
I like Trees for Life who plant in the Scottish Highlands, as they plant a tree that is the most ecologically appropriate, and they do everything to create the most forest-like way that they can. However, you can visit the forest (which looks beautiful) and see the area where your tree was planted!
You can donate, gift a tree or create a grove where you can plant many trees (Many are created in celebration or memorial which I think is lovely).
I hope that this was a useful post for any frequent or occasional flyers who want to reduce their carbon footprint. Let me know if you have any questions about carbon offsetting/how you offset in the comments below!
Check out Teresa’s post on my blog about 4 Reasons Why Sustainable Fashion Is So Important
As a personal note I’d like to add that this guest post answered all the questions, and more, than what I had before. I’m particularly happy to hear that by offsetting our flight emission we can help Scotland gain back their forests. A lot of them were cut down during the industrial revolution.
Also, the point about not all offsetting programs being completely legit – but instead coming in the way of actual human lives – is really important to remember. Not everything is as it seems, and sustainability movement has attracted a lot of fraudsters to creep out of their hide-outs.
In regards to the mistrust issues that I admitted to in the beginning of this post, they’ve been somewhat lessened by this guest post. As long as we all do a bit of research, I can see how this could actually make a huge difference.
Is there anything more you’d like to know about carbon offsetting, or do you have something to add? Please comment below and let’s discuss!♥
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