I recently flew to Stockholm to interview climate activist Greta Thunberg, and I felt terrible about my flights’ negative impact on the environment. Airplanes release a lot of CO2 as well as other gases and pollutants, which make flying a big contributor to climate change. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if aviation were a country, it would be the 10th largest contributor of CO2 emissions.
For all these reasons, Greta has stated publicly that she stopped flying several years ago. This just added to my guilt! So I decided to reach out to the braintrust of my Instagram followers to see if anyone knew the best way to offset the carbon from a flight. I got a bunch of great suggestions and did a bit of my own research. I’ve organized everything below so you’ll know what to do next time you fly!
Calculating Your Footprint:
Terrapass.com and myclimate.org are two great sites for calculating the impact of your flight. You can type in your flight details on their carbon calculator, and you will see how much CO2 your flight used. For my flight from Newark to Stockholm with a layover in Copenhagen, the total amount of CO2 was approximately 2 tons. This is A LOT. According to the World Bank, the average carbon footprint of an American in 2014 was 16.4 tons of CO2 emissions. That means these flights were about 1/8th of my total carbon footprint, which blows my mind.
Offsetting Your Flight:
The main idea behind offsetting the carbon footprint of your flight is that you use your money to support efforts that take CO2 out of the atmosphere or keep carbon in the ground. For example, you can support clean energy projects, the conservation of a forest, or reforestation projects, because planting trees takes CO2 out of the atmosphere too. I’m sure everyone will be drawn to different projects, so check out some of the suggestions below.
One Tree Planted(recommended by @christinednyc)
One Tree Planted is a nonprofit that supports reforestation projects around the world. According to their website, every year 1 tree sequesters approximately 48 lbs of CO2. Christine suggested this organization and said she plants 10 trees ($1 per tree) every time she flies. Their website is really thorough and describes all of their reforestation projects, so you can pick which one to support. Check it out here.
Price: Planting 10 trees (offsetting about 500 lbs of CO2 per year) costs $10
The Ocean Foundation(recommended by @11thhourracing)
The Ocean Foundation has a project called “Seagrass Grow” that plants seagrass to offset your carbon footprint. According to their website, seagrass is “35x more effective than the Amazonian Rainforest at sequestering carbon.” Learn more about the benefits of seagrass here
Price: Offsetting 1 ton of carbon costs $16.40
Terrapass(Recommended by @lizzy_kahn, @z_a_h_r_a_9_4)
Terrapass’s website is a one-stop-shop where you can calculate your carbon footprint and then buy credits to offset it. Their carbon calculator is great, but I didn’t like the offset credit system. The description of what you’re buying is very vague, and just says “This one time personal carbon offset purchase will help make a positive impact on the environment.” I wish I could pick the specific project where my money will go.
Price: Offsetting 1 ton of CO2 is $4.99
MyClimate.org(Recommended by @matt.stuart)
Myclimate.org is similar to Terrapass: you can calculate your carbon footprint and then buy credits to offset it. I like their carbon calculator better, because it lets you pick a specific flight and add your layovers (this is important because connecting flights emit more CO2 because taking off uses more fuel). They also have a lot of projects on their site, and you can specifically pick what you want to support. Big downside is that they’re way more expensive! They told me it would cost $80 to offset my flight. It is a Swiss company, so I don’t know if that means they’re more legit or they’re just more expensive.
Price: Offsetting 2.6 tons of CO2 is $82
I really like the idea of offsetting my carbon footprint. There is something about it that feels really natural, like I am restoring balance to our planet instead of just taking, taking, taking. I hope more people catch onto the idea of carbon offsetting and start supporting some of these great organizations. I decided to offset 2 tons of carbon through The Ocean Foundation, which cost me $40. It wasn’t the cheapest option, but I really liked their mission and their website really sold me on the importance of seagrass!
Let me know what you think of this list if I should add more! I will keep adding as I get good suggestions!
PS. My friend Adelaide sent me this Wired article that says under a new UN agreement, by 2021 all flights will have to start paying to offset their emissions. So maybe we won’t have to do this in the future!