Are you thinking about offsetting your carbon footprint?
In average each European emits 7.2 tons of CO2 every year. However, according to the scientific community, in order to avoid catastrophic consequences, we should emit a maximum of 2.3 tons per person per year.
In the richest countries, like Europe and North America, traveling can be a big part of one's footprint.
In order to get a concrete idea about what the impact of flying is, see the following examples:
In this article we will explain everything you need to know in order to come to responsible decisions when traveling, so you can do your part in contributing to fight climate change.
Among others, we will answer the following questions:
First of all, it is very important to reduce our CO2 as much as possible.
Simplifying it a lot, we could compare it with our kitchen. Remember that sauce that you dropped last time and let it dry out before cleaning it? Is it not much better to be careful and avoid making a mess in the first place instead of having to clean it up later on?
Plus being careful also avoids the risk of getting an unlucky tomato sauce stain at your white wall that you cannot remove anymore, having to buy extra cleaning products at the supermarket and arguing with your partner or flatmate.
With our carbon footprint it is very similar, but our kitchen turns out to be our planet and the sauces we drop are tons of CO2: first of all, be careful and try to avoid the mess.
Following this principle, the first step is to think what alternatives do we have in order to reduce our footprint when planning a trip.
If you are planning a business trip, do you really need to take the plane? Why don’t you organise a videoconference instead?
Traveling by train can also be an alternative. Even though it takes longer, you can use this time efficiently for getting work done without interruptions.
If we were talking about a leisure trip, we could claim the same questions:
Do you really need to fly there?
Maybe choosing a closer destination, which is also worth visiting and which you can travel to by ground transportation, can appear as an alternative.
If this is not a solution for you, choosing a direct shorter flight instead of going overseas might be another option. For instance, if you live in Europe, did you know that Menorca has even prettier beaches than Bali?
The second step is compensating all the CO2 that you were not able to avoid emitting in the first place.
Each trip has an environmental impact. Transportion needs energy, and to obtain this energy we emit greenhouse gases like CO2.
Carbon offsetting is about funding projects, which reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
These projects calculate the total emissions they avoid and the money needed to make this reduction happen.
With your donation, you contribute financially to the project and those carbon savings are attributed to you.
Unfortunately this is just a theoretical calculation: offseting is much better than doing nothing about the impact of your trip, but it is not a wild card to unlimited travel.
This is why offsetting should come only after reducing your CO2 footprint as much as possible.
Even if you select the appropriate project (more on that later), offsetting your CO2 footprint is not exactly the same as reducing it.
The main reason is the delay between emission and offset. As explained in Founders Pledge, "it is very unlikely that any offsetting scheme you fund will offset your carbon at exactly the same time as you emit". "The CO2 you initially emit does harm people by causing warming. Even though you reduce emissions one month later, this harm has still been done".
This includes not only
You can see offsetting as an intermediate solution until we figure out how to really solve this problem.
Some argue that what we need is a cultural change, so we all travel much less.
Others argue that new techonlogies will come and will make clean long-distance traveling possible.
Nobody knows which solution will eventually work; but what we know is that finding it will take time. Time we are running out of.
This is why in the present and in the near future CO2 offsetting has a critical role to play.
Projects that avoid CO2 emissions are for instance:
The saved emissions, thanks to your contribution funding the projects, compensate the ones you have emitted.
Projects that capture CO2 from the atmosphere are for instance planting trees or protecting forests from being cut down.
Forests are able to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere extremely efficiently compared with any other method or technology available.
Furthermore, they contribute in many other positive ways:
However, following the advice of many experts, we do not recommend forestry projects to offset carbon.
Taking all this into account, the conclusion is:
Planting trees is extremely beneficial. Preserving forests is vital to avoid that even more carbon is released. However, this is not the best way to offset your carbon footprint.
For this purpose, we recommend to invest in projects that avoid carbon emissions.
Some airlines offer the option of offsetting your footprint when booking a flight.
Any initiative to fight climate change is welcome. Therefore, if you want a very simple and straightforward solution, this might be the best way for you.
However, if you want to make sure that the offsetting is as fair and reliable as possible, it is better to offset your footprint independently.
Every airline has its own interests and priorities, which might or might not include taking care of our planet. This is why it is more reliable to use websites specialized in offsetting CO2 which present their main interest in saving the environment.
|Website||Cost per ton of CO2||Languages|
|CoolEffect||$5 - $11||English|
|myclimate||24€||English, German, French|
CoolEffect is the most popular website in the US to offset your carbon footprint.
Their projects for carbon offsetting include:
With CoolEffect you can very easily calculate your flight's carbon footprint.
Once you know how much carbon you have emitted, you can:
The average carbon price is about $8/ton. If you want to donate to a specific project, the cost ranges between $5 and $11 per ton.
Due to its user-friendly interface and the low cost of each ton, this is the option that we like the most, as long as you make sure that you select a project that has the Gold Standard verification (the strictest one).
At the moment of this writing, the most efficient projects in terms of cost per ton of carbon and fullfilling the strictest verifications are the biogas digestors.
Payments are only accepted in dollars.
atmosfair is one of the two most popular European websites to offset carbon.
Its interface is also very user-friendly. The cost of offsetting carbon is 23€/ton.
The difference in the price of the carbon, compared with CoolEffect, is significant. This is because atmosfair is extremly rigorous with the projects they select and they take the extra step to make sure that the projects are not only good for the planet but also for local communities.
For example, they do not include any forestry projects, since they cannot ensure that the carbon captured by the trees planted or protected will not be released again in the future. They even have an article explaining in detail Why doesn't atmosfair plant any trees?.
Another advantage of atmosfair is that their CO2 emissions calculator for flights is one of the most accurate you can find.
The website is available in English and in German.
MyClimate.org is another very popular website in Europe for carbon offsetting.
This Swiss website also has its own CO2 calculator. The cost of offsetting carbon is 24€/ton.
The website is available in English, French and German.
If we want to make sure that the donation to offset our footprint achieves its purpose, it makes sense than an external organization supervises the project. This is exactly what the verifications are for.
The most popular verifications are:
The Gold Standard verification (GS-VER) is managed by the Gold Standard Foundation, which is a non-profit organization located in Switzerland.
It is considered the strictest verification for projects of environmental protection and it is supported by some NGOs like the WWF.
Plan Vivo is a certification created by the Plan Vivo Foundation, a Scottish non-profit organization.
The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) is one of the most popular programs worldwide. It is developed and managed by Verra.
Verra is a non-profit organization founded in Washington DC in 2005. It develops and manages verification standards to reduce carbon emissions.
Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards were developed by a group of organizations, including NGOs Conservation International, The Nature and Rainforest Alliance.
It is managed by Verra and specializes in projects that simultaneously fight climate change, support local communities and maintain biodiversity.
SOCIALCARBON is a standard developed by Ecologica Institute (the first Brazilian NGO specialized in climate change).
It certifies projects that reduce carbon and contribute to a sustainable development.
FSC or Forest Stewardship Council is specialized in forest management.
We hope you have now a better understanding of how carbon offsetting works.
If you have any question or comment about this topic, feel free to write to us through email or social media.
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