Responsible Travel: Purchasing Carbon Offsets

Air travel is becoming increasingly accessible and affordable, with more flights to more destinations available to more people for less money. As such, the impact of air travel on the environment is one of tourism’s biggest environmental challenges.

While some travellers have the time to travel slower, or access to more carbon neutral modes of transportation, it isn’t realistic to expect people to stop flying. The best thing we can do, is encourage travellers to make more sustainable, responsible choices when doing so.

Flying to Iceland

Flying to Iceland – we got a really good deal on our flights – even more incentive to offset.

Two years ago, I took the Eurostar from London to Brussels and back. It was a two hour journey and financially, cost about the same as a flight would have. Environmentally, it was much less taxing. At the time, Eurostar was carbon neutral, in that they offset each passenger’s travel. Now, they’ve shifted focus onto actually reducing their initial environmental impact, with their Tread Lightly programme and carbon reduction goals.

But what if you’re living somewhere like North America, where rail travel just isn’t the same as it is in Europe? Or what if you need to travel across the world, and can’t possible go overland?

Fortunately, there’s a slew of carbon offset options for personal and business travel, and they’re not nearly as expensive as you think.

Travel by horse

Can’t travel by horse? Let’s be honest, most of us can’t. Doesn’t mean we can’t be carbon neutral.

When I went to Hong Kong and Malaysia last year, I purchased carbon offsets for the entirety of my journey (six flights – two long-haul, four short-haul). I can’t remember the precise total, but I think it was something like $60. I purchased my offsets with Planetair.ca, the Canadian branch of Swiss offsetting organisation myclimate. I found Planetair.ca through the David Suzuki Foundation, and liked that their projects are all Gold Standard and developed against the procedures of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.

A few weeks from now, I’m heading to Panama for a week. It’s a five-ish hour flight from Toronto, and we managed to snag flights for $511 return. We’re definitely on a budget for this trip, but that by no means gets me off the hook for offsetting my flights, and it really shouldn’t.

This time, I purchased my carbon offsets with Offsetters.ca, another recommendation from the David Suzuki Foundation. I was given the option to select from Verified Carbon Standard or Gold Standard projects – the difference being that due to Canada’s current position on the Kyoto Protocol, no Canadian projects can be listed as Gold Standard. I opted for the Gold Standard projects, which is $30/tonne (VER is $20/tonne).

My total? $40.

The amount of time it took me to offset? Less than 10 minutes. And I paid by PayPal.

Beautiful fields in Shere

Consider some of your favourite, beautiful environments…perhaps that will prompt you to offset.

Travelling is something many of us love, and want to continue to do for years and years to come. The problem is, we may not always be travelling in a way that will make our beloved adventures sustainable. The responsible thing to do is to offset your air or car travel. It’s easy, it’s affordable (even on a budget), and it’s just plain smart.

For a great list of where to buy Gold Standard carbon offsets, select your region from the list here.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ayngelina says:

    I need to do more research into carbon offsets, I have this weird opinion based on no facts at all, that most of these companies are scams.

    I have no idea why I am so mistrusting but I really am.

    1. I can see where you’re coming from, because I felt the same way for a while. I was just so unsure and worried about greenwashing that I didn’t want to put my money anywhere. One of the few organisations I trust is the David Suzuki Foundation, so when they purchase their offsets from a particular source, I feel confident in doing the same. That’s really what it came down to for me. I didn’t just blindly make the purchase, though, I still read up quite a bit on the DSF recommendations, so I was very aware of where my money was going. But you’re right, there’s a lot of reason to doubt companies, and I think it’s good to be cautious. Also, you’re the type of traveller who uses local businesses and really supports the local economy, so just by doing that, you’re doing a lot for the sustainability of tourism.

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