Green New Year: Traveling Green with Carbon Offsets

As the new year begins, many of us will be making trips to visit family, see a new part of the world, or take a much-needed vacation in the following months. But these trips, airplane travel especially, have a cost beyond the ticket price: carbon emissions. Emissions from travel can often seem unavoidable; after all, how can you get from New York to London without flying? But one way to travel by plane and keep up with your environmentally friendly New Year's Resolutions is through carbon offsets.

 What are carbon offsets?

Carbon offsets are a way of compensating for your emissions by investing in or donating money to projects that 1) pull carbon from the atmosphere or 2) support emissions reduction in some other way. Offsets allow you to be 'carbon neutral' by balancing out the carbon-negative emissions from your trip with carbon-positive projects and actions. These projects vary widely, from re-capturing atmospheric methane to funding access to clean drinking water for communities in need. 

 How do I compensate?

To begin, estimate the carbon emissions generated from your trip with a third party online calculator like this Carbon Footprint Calculator. Then, based on your results, select a project to invest in. Keep in mind that a legitimate project should: a) be prepared to offset any accidental carbon-negative occurrences (recaptured gas leaks, the death of a tree meant to pull carbon from the atmosphere, etc.), b) be verified by an independent third-party organization, and c) have been created with the purpose of off-setting additional carbon emissions not already required by law. Some suggestions for projects include: Cool Effect, the Gold Standard, and Green-e

 While some argue that carbon compensation is a half-measure—given that your emissions are still released into the atmosphere—supporting impactful environmental work is always a positive thing, and you need not only use carbon offsets to balance out your travel. Carbon offsets can be used to compensate for household emissions, given as a gift, or simply purchased to support a cause of your choice.    

Wherever you choose to travel this year, we at EarthEcho hope you will keep in mind a resolution to travel 'green' in 2020 and all the years to come!


Written by Apurva Iyengar of the Youth Leadership Council