FX Excursions

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Learn Ways to Counteract the Carbon Footprint of your Travels

by Berit Thorkelson

Jun 27, 2024

PHOTO: © NICOELNINO | DREAMSTIME.COM

June 2024

While travel offers undeniable benefits, it’s getting harder to look past one major downside: The fossil fuels that power most types of travel are the world’s biggest generators of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that warms the planet, causing climate change.

Airline travel in particular significantly ups your personal carbon footprint. Consider that a single passenger on even a direct, relatively short round-trip flight — between New York City and London, for example — generates more CO2 emissions than a resident in many countries will over an entire year.

Enter carbon offsetting, defined as making equivalent CO2 reductions in order to counteract, or offset, the environmental damage. Emily Nyrop, vice president, Natural Climate Solutions, Conservation International, puts purchasing offsets on her trip-planning list. It’s easy to do and can be fairly inexpensive. You might offset the aforementioned New York– London trip, for example, for as little as $15. Simply calculate your flight’s carbon emissions (there are lots of reliable calculators online), then select an offset project or program to support.

Over-crediting emerged as a problem with click-the-box airline offset options, so it’s better to find an independent program you connect with. Nyrop recommends those that conserve or restore forests, which are effective in storing carbon, or that promote renewable energy, such as the use of so-called clean cookstoves running on solar power (versus more traditional CO2-generating fuels). Check that any program follows recognized market standards, such as the Verified Carbon Standard or the Gold Standard. “These indicate that the projects are high quality and truly additional — the project’s associated emissions reductions or removals wouldn’t have occurred without the support of offset funding,” Nyrop said.

Another idea? Skip the 1:1 purchased programs and offset in other, more personal ways. This is the tactic favored by Barbara Haya, Ph.D., research fellow at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and director of the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project. “Switch to an electric vehicle, bike or public transportation; choose a 100 percent renewable energy power plan; insulate and electrify your home; eat less meat and dairy; put a bit of time into supporting strong local and national climate policies,” Haya said.

In short, travel the world, then dial back carbon emissions in your little corner of it.

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