After nearly a decade of accumulating frequent flyer miles on credit cards, we finally did it. We saved up enough miles to travel overseas. We chose a country with exquisite landscapes and timed the dream trip to correspond with my fiftieth birthday.
And then I began reading about the impact of air travel on climate change. I discovered that, of the many carbon-producing personal lifestyle choices, plane flight has one of the biggest footprints by far.
Avoiding just one transatlantic roundtrip flight has more carbon-reducing benefit than buying green energy, replacing a typical car with a hybrid, switching to a plant-based diet, or being fastidious with washing clothes in cold water and hanging them out to dry, recycling, or upgrading every single light bulb (according to a 2017 Lund University meta-analysis of 39 peer-reviewed articles). Only living car-free or having one fewer child demonstrated greater carbon-reducing impact!
Forgo the trip?
This is where the environmentalist rubber hits the road – when personal sacrifice is involved. I must confess, I felt conflicted about completely abandoning this trip of a lifetime. Perhaps there was a way to travel and be environmentally responsible at the same time.
A little on-line research revealed that carbon offsetting is available not only for corporate and governmental entities, but also for individuals who want to purchase carbon credits. A credit = “a financial unit of measurement that represents the removal of 2,205 lbs of carbon from the atmosphere.” This involves investing money in carbon-verified projects that help sequester carbon from the atmosphere, offsetting the emissions from my plane flight.
I found Cool Effect, a non-profit that provides an online platform, a type of Crowdfunding, for such carbon offsetting. They offer a calculator that helps you determine how much to donate to compensate for your travel, as well as a range of international projects to invest in that serve “climate, community and biodiversity.”
Granted, it’s better to not step on a plane at all. But, short of cessation, we can take the constructive steps of reducing personal long distance travel and purchasing carbon credits. There are reasons other than a pandemic for us to reevaluate our relationship with flying.