More people are flying than ever before, thanks to an age of affordable airfares and airlines offering routes to new and exciting destinations. Cheap international flights mean it is even more accessible for travellers to explore the world’s biggest cities, far-flung landscapes and fascinating cultures. Flying does impact a traveller’s carbon footprint however, and the choices you make while away can also affect the environment. The good news? There are things you can do that positively add to efforts of more sustainable travel – and these steps do not include having to stop flying altogether. One of the easiest options is to contribute to carbon offsetting programs every time you book a flight. Making the most of carbon offsetting programs is a small way you can feel good about continuing to see the world while doing your part to preserve it for future travellers.
What Is Carbon Offset?
Carbon offset programs work to help neutralise the negative effects emissions made by flying have on the planet. These programs direct funds towards environmental initiatives that aim to reduce greenhouse gases and clean up the atmosphere. The amount of work these programs do usually corresponds with the levels of carbon that are emitted during a particular flight. For example, if a metric tonne of carbon is emitted during your flight, your carbon offset contribution will be directed to removing a metric tonne of carbon from the atmosphere, or preventing a metric tonne of carbon from entering the atmosphere in the first place.
Contributing to carbon offset programs is completely up to the traveller, and the option to do so is generally offered by an airline or travel agent during the booking process. It is important to note that not all airlines, travel agents or other travel businesses operate carbon offset programs, so prioritising booking with those that do may be something to consider for those invested in more sustainable travel.
A carbon offset contribution is calculated based on how far you’ll be travelling and can also vary depending on the airline you’ll be flying with. A short domestic flight within Australia might call for a contribution of just $2 or $3. Of course, longer flights result in more carbon being emitted, so the offset contributions will be higher. A flight from Sydney to Los Angeles may have a calculated contribution of about $18, and the average offset amount for a flight from Melbourne to London could be about $25.
What Programs Are Funded By Carbon Offset?
Each carbon offsetting program funds projects that positively impact the planet, although the efforts supported by these programs can operate in different ways. One of the most popular types of projects is tree planting and the restoration of native forests around the world. A carbon offset program based in Australia may protect domestic habitats, as well as those overseas – especially if there is a landscape that is identified as particularly vulnerable.
Another common carbon offset program is the provision of sustainable energy alternatives to communities that historically rely on high emitting methods. These projects often work in rural areas to equip communities with energy-efficient stoves. These stoves reduce carbon emissions and the amount of wood needed, when compared to a traditional wood-burning stove. Less wood or fuel needed means less logging – another positive for habitats around the world. Establishing wind farms to cut down on fossil fuel use is also a offset-funded project.
Some carbon offset programs operate projects that aim to neutralise greenhouse gases before it even enters the atmosphere. This involves introducing measures that trap carbon and methane (among other gases) that are emitted from farms, landfills, and factories.
What Else Can I Do As Well As Offset Carbon?
While contributing to carbon offset programs is a great step to making your travels have a more positive impact on the environment, there are additional things you can do that further reduce your carbon footprint while you are away.
Walk, cycle, or catch public transport
The most sustainable transportation options are the ones that don’t emit excess carbon into the atmosphere at all. Walking and cycling are excellent ways to explore your destination and do so sustainably. If you are headed to a larger city that can’t be seen just on foot or by bike, make the most of the local transportation network rather than rely on taxis.
Cut-down on single-use plastic
Using a bit of plastic is almost inevitable when travelling (or even just being at home, for that matter), but try to cut down on your plastic consumption where you can. Carry a reusable bag if you’ll be shopping, and take a refillable water bottle with you. You can even buy water bottles with built-in filters if you’re headed to a destination where the tap water isn’t safe to drink.
You can see a more comprehensive list of ways to be a sustainable traveller here.