Still traveling by air? Consider some eco offset measures

It sometimes feels like people are flying with a vengeance. As I watch the return of in-person conferences with flights and hotels and all, and the downright pornographic vacation sprees of many of my fellow Boomers (and here I’m talking about people who identify as being environmentally concerned), my soul screams.

OK, admittedly I am seeing most of these people only in Facebook-land, with splashy photos that tend to amplify the consumption-porn feel of things. But there do seem to be a lot of people in my feed, among the more well-heeled “early Boomer” crowd, who are going on these super extended, multi-flight, mega-vacations. Sort of like modern-day versions of the robber-baron class back in the Gilded Age who used to always “summer” elsewhere. Feels like the travel equivalent of Henry the Eighth’s groaning banquet-table.

However, we live in an imperfect world, and my job is to help those of us in the privileged classes reduce our footprints in whatever ways we are able or willing. The world is filled with temptation, and also the world is filled with things that are beautiful and pleasurable, and really, shaming people doesn’t tend to help. So instead I will try to offer some practical suggestions.

Carbon offsets are not perfect, but if you are going to travel by air, please consider purchasing offsets. In some cases the airlines directly offer an offset option with the purchase of your ticket. The amount of money it adds to your ticket is very modest. If you can afford to fly, you can afford to buy carbon offsets.

I googled “airlines that offer carbon offsets,” and found that there is a long list.

Alternatively, you could choose to purchase offsets from an offset vendor. I have heard from an eco colleague I trust that Gold Standard offsets are the best. Although I no longer travel by air, I do purchase offsets for my annual long-distance train trip to see my family.

For some years I did a lot of air travel for work. Later, a few years ago, I retroactively purchased carbon offsets to offset every flight I could remember taking in my adult life. I padded my estimate just to be on the safe side.

I purchased my offsets through the Gold Standard website. You can check out that website here:

Also, if you want to take it to the next level, you can pledge to reduce your flying or stop flying altogether. The Flight Free website offers many options. You can pledge to stop flying for one year (and then keep renewing that pledge each year if you choose), you can pledge to stop flying for vacations, you can pledge to take some limited number of flights, etc.

You can even pledge to just stop flying altogether.

A growing number of us — especially older people in the more privileged segments of society, who have traveled far more than our share — have chosen that last option, as we don’t feel a great need to travel across oceans anymore, and furthermore feel a strong responsibility to the younger and future generations.

Flight Free USA:
Flight Free UK:

And Flight Free also has this flight emissions calculator, in case you’re curious to calculate the footprint of a trip you’ve taken or are thinking of taking:

Finally, a special note for organizers of conferences or other events that are calling for in-person long-distance travel (and for companies/industries that still expect people to do a lot of air travel as part of their jobs):

On the event registration website, in your emails to prospective attendees, and so on, include information that will help people offset the impact of their participation in your event. Better yet, you as a company or organization take care of this offset piece. Besides reducing your eco-footprint, you’ll also be engaging in some enlightened self-interest in terms of public relations.

(If you are not up in a position of authority with your company, organization, or industry, then suggest the above to your bosses or higher-ups. And offer to help coordinate it.)

Further exploration:

• “What would a flying-free world look like?” “Aviation has long been a pain in the neck for those working to cut human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. It is the pinnacle of a “hard-to-decarbonise” sector: energy-intensive, lacking in immediate technical options to make it lower carbon, and strongly associated with the lifestyles of the richest and most powerful in society.
It has also become one of the fastest growing sectors emissions-wise. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from planes grew 30% between 2013 and 2019 while the CO2 emissions growth in the wider economy between the same years was just 4%.”

• “Snapshots of the End of Travel: On Trying to Enter a Personal No-Fly Zone. Amy Benson Wrestles With the Devastating Consequences of Air Travel” (Amy Benson; ). “Large aircraft burn about one gallon of jet fuel per second. Climate scientists have learned to use literary devices — imagery and analogy — to help us understand the numbers. The Suzuki Foundation, a science-based environmental nonprofit, takes a few tacks. The micro: one five-hour flight emits as much carbon ‘as heating a European home for an entire year.’ And the macro: ‘If the aviation sector were a nation, it would be among the top ten global emitters.’ The BBC puts it this way: a one-way ‘flight from London to San Francisco emits… more than twice [the CO2] produced by a family car in a year.’ … Oh, but carbon offsets! Modern day Indulgences, built on similarly shaky theology. It takes a leap of faith, in fact, to believe in the power of offsets to buy a clean conscience and a smaller footprint. The main mechanism for offsets is planting trees, but those trees are usually monoculture ‘forests,’ terrible as a platform for biodiversity, and extra vulnerable to pests, fires, and species extinction. And offset forests, locations undisclosed, don’t repair tourism-ravaged landscapes or cultures. You can’t offset travel-dependent economies. … But travel is still treated — even or especially among those of us who have presumably spent some time thinking about climate change and colonialism — as a net positive. Even a moral good: We have a responsibility to see the world, to claw our way out of provinciality, to tap a shunt into our brain and pour in experiences where they will alchemically turn into knowledge and empathy. …”

• And a great quote about choosing not to fly: “Not flying is not just about saving fossil fuels. It is also about staying put, that is, making a home in your own place, dedicating yourself and your family to that. Making our places sustainable and making our hearts loyal to them can create a new kind of society with new values, ones that include people, non-human animals, green growing things. Our human footprint can then work in harmony with all life. All life is sustained including humans. (If we can survive the climate.)” — Nancy Sidhu, a fellow member of the Deep Adaptation group on Facebook

#goldstandard #carbonoffsets #offsettingairtravel #flightfree