What Is Carbon Offsetting?

You’ve probably heard a lot about carbon offsetting lately, especially in connection with travel to large events such as the Democratic National Convention, the Super Bowl or the Olympics.

Planes, trains, and automobiles contribute heavily to global warming. In fact, travel accounts for about one-third of worldwide climate-damaging carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and air travel is one of the fastest growing contributors to global warming. A roundtrip flight from New York to Los Angeles covers a distance of 4,938 miles and emits 1,940 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) per passenger.

What’s a conscientious travel lover to do? First, we can minimize unnecessary travel or visit places closer to home.

Nazca boobies, Gal?pagos Islands

Nazca boobies, Galápagos Islands

If, however, you’ve got your heart set on an overseas vacation, you can offset the climate damage created during your airplane flight to Paris or Machu Picchu by financially investing in renewable-energy projects that reduce carbon emissions, a process called “carbon offsetting.”

The first time I tried carbon offsetting was on my trip to the Galápagos Islands. I logged onto the Sustainable Travel International’s My-Climate.com website where its carbon offset program calculated how much carbon dioxide I created (2.04 tons!) on my roundtrip flight from Denver to Ecuador to the Pacific islands. It cost just $37 to assuage my eco-guilt.

“The basis of carbon offsetting is that on the one hand, you produce carbon dioxide; on the other, you reduce,” says Peter Krahenbuhl, co-founder of Sustainable Travel International, a nonprofit that promotes responsible tourism.

Marine iguanas, Gal?pagos Islands

Marine iguanas, Galápagos Islands

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

P.S. Read more about what carbon offsets buy in my next post.

2 thoughts on “What Is Carbon Offsetting?

  1. It’s a great idea, Laurel. Thanks for writing about it. From what I’ve read, though, it sounds like the jury is still out about carbon offset effectiveness. Will you talk about that in your next post? Thanks!

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