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3 damn good reasons to carbon offset your flights

3 damn good reasons to carbon offset your flights

It was nearly a year and a half ago when I last brought up this issue.

While the post wasn’t bad, I’ll be honest… I know a crapload more about making my posts more exciting to read than I did back then.

Since this subject is incredibly important – not just to me, but to the future of our planet, I’ve decided to refresh the post and publish an updated version.

Carbon emissions are a huge deal. If we don’t do something about it right now, we may never be able to turn back (see this article by The Guardian on how the world’s carbon dioxide concentration teetering on the point of no return).

So, my friends, here are 3 damn good reasons to carbon offset your flights, and the steps to go about doing it.


Carbon offset your flights

1. our flights contribute a huge amount of carbon emissions

Most of us are already taking steps to reduce energy use in our homes. Using fresh air to dry our clothes instead of a tumble dryer, installing energy efficient lightbulbs, or reducing the amount of meat we consume all helps cut carbon emisisons.

But… what about our travels?

Most of us don’t realise that jumping on one long-haul flight could cause the same or more greenhouse gas emissions per person than an entire year of home electricity usage, and the effect of airplanes emitting carbon gases as such high altitudes could be two to four times more damaging than other forms of ground transport.

Crazy, right!? This is not an issue that we can ignore.

While commercial jets are about 70% more fuel efficient now than they were 50 years ago, they still inject an alarming amount of carbon into the atmosphere. According to the Air Transport Action Group, flights contribute a whopping 770 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere annually. This is about 2% of ALL man-made carbon emissions.

That sounds pretty damn terrifying to me.


Carbon offset your flights

2. Carbon Offsets are a great investment in our planet

To make it easy to visualise, we can think of the environment like a chain smoker. With many years of inhaling bad air, it now has yellowed teeth and wheezy breathing.

Obviously, we don’t want to continue forcing the environment to continue inhaling all this bad air. We want it to get back to a healthy lifestyle – and our only option is to give it some good air to breathe.

This is where carbon neutral non-profits come in. The funds they receive are usually put towards projects that will assist in soaking up carbon in the atmosphere, or developing cleaner energy so that we emit less carbon in the future.

These projects can include financing renewable energy, conservation and forest protection, or installing energy-saving technologies in businesses and homes.

If you’re wondering whether carbon offsets can be easily measured, the answer is… not really. If carbon offset funds have been used to finance clean energy projects, the payoffs may not be seen for another 10 years, so you can’t say whether your donation has directly offset your last flight.

But carbon offsets are still a valuable investment in our planet – if we don’t finance these projects now, then it might be another 20, 30, or 50 years until we can live off clean energy, and all those extra years of carbon emissions will basically put the environment into a hospital bed. Who knows whether it will be able to pull through.

So as you can see, the point of carbon offsetting is not really about neutralising the exact amount of carbon emitted, but working towards a cleaner and more energy-efficient future.


Carbon offset your flights

3. It’s far easier than you think

Some airlines offer carbon offsets as part of their booking process, but most don’t. We have to make sure we’re offsetting it elsewhere.

Let me show the process step by step. This is exactly what Robert and I did to offset both of our carbon emissions for the entirety of 2015.

Step 1 – Find a company to carbon offset your flights. We used carbonfund.org (mostly because it was recommended by the environmentally-savvy Mr Money Mustache) but you can do a Google search to find more options. The best way to check whether the site is legit is to look up their projects and see where they distribute their funds.

Carbon offsetting flights

The calculator on carbonfund.org

Step 2 – Use a calculator to enter your emissions. As you can see, our year was a busy one for travel. We entered every flight, every long-haul bus trip, and the fuel emissions from our rental car that we used to drive the California coast. We don’t own a car (here’s why!) so we didn’t include any other car fuel emissions, but you definitely should add that in if you drive regularly.

Step 3 – Press calculate, and donate that amount. It is super easy, and to be honest, it’s really not that expensive. Our entire year’s worth of carbon emissions cost the two of us a grand total of… $120 USD! Our main source of our carbon emissions is our travels, but seriously – $60 donation per person per year is not all that much.

Carbon offsetting flights

Our entire year’s worth of carbon emissions

Carbon emissions don’t just stop at flights/buses/cars. I’ve previously recommended that you watch Cowspiracy (which is produced by Leo DiCaprio), and then follow it up with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Make yourself a large bowl of popcorn then prepare for your mind to be blown.


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Ashlea Wheeler

This post was written by Ashlea, a colourfully clothed and excitable vegetarian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

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