Today I’m going to be chatting about Carbon Offsetting as a way to make your travel more sustainable. I want to stress that whilst carbon offsetting is a good way to help reduce your environmental impact on the earth, or to make it a net positive, it shouldn’t be used as a way to live very un-sustainably but make up for it by paying to plant trees. We should all aim to live as eco-friendly as we can, and if you do need to take a flight every now and again, then offsetting is a great way to balance it out.
Flying is usually the quickest and cheapest way of travelling abroad, or even within your own country. For example, the train to Edinburgh from London can cost twice as much and take four times as long as the flight. At the same time, air travel has a big environmental footprint. Taking a flight from Edinburgh to London results in 193kg of CO2 emissions. Opting for the train means you produce 24kg – that’s 87% less of CO2 emissions.
Coaches and Trains are pretty much equal in terms of their emissions, so I encourage you to look into those options and if you have the privilege of time and money to travel slower, then consider doing so. For those of us who have a budget and a finite amount of annual leave, carbon offsetting gives us an opportunity to lower the flights impact and help to remove some of that Swedish flygskam (‘flight shame’) that environmentalists usually feel.
What Is Carbon Offsetting?
Basically, carbon offsetting is a process in which you figure out how much carbon is put out into the atmosphere by your flight, commute or day-to-day life and then pay to support a project which will balance out your emissions. This is often through schemes such as tree planting, providing clean energy or other, more niche programmes like giving clean cookers to rural communities or helping farmers to catch methane and use it as a useful resource.
As I mentioned earlier, carbon offsetting shouldn’t be used as an excuse for flying every week and I worry that large corporations or the rich and famous can just pay to balance their emissions without addressing the actual issues of the climate crisis. It should be used as a supplementary tool alongside reducing our own carbon footprint, and that of businesses. It’s sort of like putting a bandaid on a bullet hole!
Calculating Your Carbon Emissions
The first part of offsetting is knowing how big your carbon footprint actually is. This is harder than it should be as so many sites give different answers. I tried 3 different calculators and got drastically different answers from each, so it’s worth giving a few a go and calculating an average, especially if they offer a carbon offsetting scheme themselves as it could just be a ploy to get you to spend with them. Try a few websites, be honest in your answers and you should be able to figure out how accurate they seem.
Since the industry is still new, there seems to be lots of uncertainty about how to actually calculate a number, but hopefully we’ll see it improve over the next few years.
Which Projects Should You Support?
Carbon offsetting isn’t a very regulated industry, on account of it being fairly new. This creates issues as companies can be scams or actually do more harm than good.
An example of this is an offsetting scheme which displaced communities in the Amazon and Kenya to make way for more trees.
I recommend sticking to tree planting schemes in your own country or with companies who are totally transparent about the location and consequences of them planting trees. Like I mentioned earlier, there are many ways to offset your emissions and there are some really cool and innovative projects to support. Just make sure to do your due diligence and look into the programmes small print before supporting them. If you don’t feel like their website is clear or has the information you need, just drop them an email; any company worth their salt will give you the answers you desire!
Do It Yourself Offsetting
If you’re still unsure about the legitimacy of the company, or the concept itself you can DIY your offsetting. Whether you do it through donating trees (1 tonne of carbon equals about 1 tree), donating to environmental charities and projects or just through lifestyle changes which reduce your footprint, the end result is the same.
I hope that you found this article useful and will consider carbon offsetting your footprint, especially when travelling. Let’s all aim to reduce our emissions first, but help to balance out the rest by supporting ethical & helpful offsetting schemes!
Cover image: photo via Unsplash
About The Author:
Hi, I’m Jess! I’m a blogger & podcaster who focuses on sustainable living, ethical fashion & responsible travel. You can find me on jessrigg.com, @jessrigg_ or on The Ethical Conversations Podcast.