Can you make your commercial airline flight carbon-free? Probably not. There is much work being done on potential hydrogen and electric powered aircraft, but in the meantime you may be able to offset the carbon emissions from your flight by purchasing carbon credits. National Geographic studied the attitude of air travelers and found that about one-third of us is willing to pay more to offset our share of carbon emissions through programs like Terrapass or MyClimate.

Worldwide, the carbon emissions associated with air travel per person are not high. Most people in the world don’t fly. But it’s different in developed countries, like ours, and throughout the European Union and parts of Asia. For those who can afford to fly, air travel can be a significant share of their carbon emissions. MyClimate offers a simple calculator to estimate your emissions and provides various ways to offset them...

MyClimate offers a simple calculator to estimate your emissions and provides various ways to offset them. Say you want to fly roundtrip between San Francisco and Baltimore in economy seating. The MyClimate calculation says your share of the emissions on those flights is about 1.3 tons of CO2. You choose among several sustainable development projects to offset those emissions. For example, supporting a reforestation project in Nicaragua will cost you $37.

Terrapass estimates your share of emissions for the roundtrip flight between San Francisco and Baltimore to be one ton of CO2. To offset that, the company asks for $25. That money supports sustainable development in local communities worldwide and reduces greenhouse gas emissions through wind energy.

What we do to curb emissions at home or in the air matters. To put things in perspective, MyClimate estimates that to make significant progress on Global Climate Change each person on Earth, on average, has to limit their emissions to 0.6 tons of CO2 per year. According to the World Bank, the average emissions per person per year in the European Union is 6.1 tons. The estimate in the United States was 14.7 tons in 2019. But it was 20.5 tons in 2000, showing a decrease of about 50%.

Terrapass and MyClimate have calculators to help you estimate your share of emissions from energy use at home and on highways, along with air travel. Harvard even has a calculator called Foodprint, which measures your emissions output based on the food you eat.

You can always donate to organizations like those mentioned above or other organizations like Sustainable Contra Costa. The Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge’s  Offset Air Travel action helps you earn points by offsetting your travel by air with carbon credits. The Challenge website also offers ways to reduce your carbon footprint in the air, on the road, and at home.

Putting a “carbon cost” on a particular activity like flying provides you with some clarity. Make a list, and fill in the blanks every time you offset or reduce carbon emissions. Can you reach the carbon emission target of no more than 0.6 tons?

Caution: The carbon offset companies used as examples above are certified by national and international third-party standards organizations such as Climate Action Reserve, the Gold Standard, and Verified Carbon Standard. There are a lot of other carbon credit companies and organizations. Do a little digging to ensure you pay for something real and helpful for the planet.

Photo by John McArthur on Unsplash.

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