The aviation industry is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Currently, it accounts for around 2% of global emissions but could triple by 2050 according to Manchester Metropolitan University research.
Purchasing carbon offsets can help you reduce your impact on the environment while also supporting people in developing countries. But before you commit, there’s much to consider.
Impact of air travel on the environment
Air travel has a major effect on the environment, contributing to global warming and pollution. In fact, aviation accounts for roughly 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Flights emit a great deal of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to climate change, such as methane, black carbon and nitrous oxides. These contribute to warming the atmosphere, ozone depletion, asthma and respiratory illnesses.
To combat climate change, airlines are striving to reduce their carbon footprints. Some have even declared themselves “carbon neutral” by 2050.
Unfortunately, this may not be enough to stop aviation from contributing to global warming. At present, aviation is the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions worldwide.
As a result, the world must act swiftly to reduce its warming effect. One way of doing this is by restricting air travel.
To maximize efficiency, we should try to minimize our flight count or opt for different airlines when traveling. Furthermore, whenever feasible, try to avoid long-haul flights whenever possible.
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint while flying is by not overpaying for your ticket. The more expensive a ticket, the fewer seats there are on board and therefore, more passengers generate carbon emissions per journey.
Additionally, CORSIA (the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) is a global market-based measure that will limit international airline emissions to a specific level by 2021. However, this scheme stands alone from voluntary consumer carbon offsets and has been criticized due to its lack of transparency and loopholes.
What are carbon offsets?
Offsets are credits purchased from projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or sequester carbon dioxide. Examples of such initiatives include reforestation, renewable energy sources, carbon-storing agricultural practices, waste and landfill management practices.
To be considered credible, offset projects must meet several criteria. These include additionality – they must reduce emissions below what would have occurred without the offsets – and no leakage – there must be no increase in emissions elsewhere that wouldn’t have happened if the offset project hadn’t been funded by it.
Furthermore, these projects must be effective at reducing CO2 or storing it, as well as meet several sustainability criteria such as permanence, accountability, internal monitoring and verification.
Finding a trustworthy offset project requires research into the companies selling them and checking their website for detailed descriptions of their projects. Reputable carbon offset certifying bodies include American Carbon Registry, Climate Action Reserve, Gold Standard, Plan Vivo, and Verra.
These organizations offer a wide range of forestry and renewable energy projects, such as reforestation, carbon-storing agriculture, waste reduction, wind farms or solar energy generation. These types of endeavors have the greatest likelihood for success while providing significant environmental advantages.
You can purchase offsets from trusted organizations, such as the United Nations and World Wildlife Fund. Typically, these organizations charge between $10-20 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent. You may also find intermediaries who facilitate buying small quantities of offsets; they provide a calculator which estimates how many offsets you need to buy to meet your emissions reduction goals.
How to calculate your carbon footprint from flights
The aviation sector is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, currently accounting for 2% worldwide. If planes become even more fuel-efficient in the future, its contribution could triple.
It is essential for passengers to understand the carbon impact of their flights. Doing so can enable them to make better informed decisions about which flight type to select and what steps can be taken to offset those emissions.
Airlines have developed their own carbon calculators, which enable people to estimate how much CO2 emissions they contribute during flights. Unfortunately, these calculations vary between individuals and only provide an approximate representation of actual emissions produced during a journey.
Many companies and organisations are creating methods for calculating the emissions from air travel in order to create more precise calculations of your carbon footprint. These methodologies draw upon databases and statistics gathered from real-time analysis of the airline ecosystem.
At EnergyElephant, we have a tool which makes airline emissions calculations simple. It uses the Spherical Law of Cosines to determine distance between Addis Ababa and Boston, then multiplies this figure by the DEFRA emissions factor.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) offers a tool to calculate emissions from an individual’s flight. This takes into account both departure and destination airports, as well as class of travel.
The ICAO tool can be an invaluable tool for individuals to determine how their actions contribute to global warming and how they can lessen it. Furthermore, it gives them a chance to contribute towards climate protection projects which benefit both the planet and local communities alike.
How to buy carbon offsets
If you want to reduce the emissions from flights, carbon offsets are a great option. These tradable “rights” grant ownership of one metric tonne of CO2 that has been removed from the atmosphere through an approved project.
You’ll have no trouble locating carbon offset programs and companies online, but to guarantee your money goes to a worthy cause you should select an established carbon offset provider.
Many of the top carbon offset providers partner with an established organization that has stringent criteria for evaluating and verifying projects. Furthermore, they’ll be open about which projects they fund and how they calculate their savings.
Some websites, such as Terrapass (US), Native Energy, Green E and Cool Effect, provide calculators to help you calculate how much carbon offset you need to offset your footprint. They then allow you to purchase the appropriate amount from various organizations that meet their standards.
Another option is to search for an airline that provides carbon offsets as part of their overall program. Finnair, for instance, has a carbon-reducing program that enables customers to offset their flights before, during or after the trip using a sliding scale on its booking system.
Alternatively, you could donate to a charity that promotes climate-reducing projects. In certain cases, donations registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofits may qualify for tax benefits.
To avoid paying exorbitant prices or receiving a subpar product, you should make sure to find a trustworthy carbon offset provider. Doing this helps prevent scams that plague many carbon offsetting programs. Organizations such as Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, Climate Action Reserve, American Carbon Registry, Plan Vivo and Community & Biodiversity Alliance provide third-party verifications for their projects.
Other ways to reduce your carbon footprint when flying
Carbon offset programs are an effective way to reduce flight emissions, but they’re not the only solution for making a difference on your travel footprint. Other strategies include avoiding long roundtrip trips, minimizing your luggage weight, and using public transportation instead of air travel.
If you must fly, try to choose airlines that are committed to reducing their environmental impacts. German non-profit Atmosfair has an index that shows which airlines produce the least CO2 per passenger for various routes.
One of the best ways to reduce air travel emissions is by selecting an airline that uses newer aircraft on your route, according to Atmosfair. These planes usually have higher fuel efficiency and lower emissions levels.
Another tip is to steer clear of business or first class flights, which usually have higher carbon footprints than economy classes. According to the World Bank, a first class ticket on an extended haul flight emits nearly four times more CO2 than an economy seat does.
Another tip is to assess the type of aircraft used by your airline. Low-impact airlines, such as charter flights, often utilize modern efficient models that are more eco-friendly.
United and other airlines provide carbon offsetting services for customers. Their calculator estimates your round-trip flight’s carbon footprint, and you can choose to donate a certain amount of money towards offsetting emissions from your journey.
Carbon offsetting can be a useful tool, but not always successful. Some carbon offset programs are for-profit, so do your due diligence before buying them. Furthermore, airlines may not be transparent about their emissions per flight and many carbon offset schemes lack regulation – thus it’s essential to find one that meets internationally recognized standards.
The importance of offsetting carbon emissions from flights
Air travel is a significant contributor to carbon emissions and climate change, but there are ways to minimize our impact through carbon offsetting. By learning about the benefits and challenges of carbon offsetting, and taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint while traveling, we can make a positive impact on the environment and promote sustainable travel practices. From supporting sustainable initiatives and eco-friendly accommodations to choosing low-carbon transportation options and reducing our overall consumption, there are many ways to make travel more sustainable and ethical.
As travelers, it is our responsibility to be aware of the impact of our travel choices on the environment and to take steps to minimize our carbon footprint. By exploring the benefits and challenges of carbon offsetting for flights and adopting sustainable travel practices, we can promote a more positive and sustainable future for travel. Let’s work together to make sustainable travel the norm and create a brighter, more sustainable future for all.