We’ve all gone online to book flights for an upcoming trip, entered our name, passport number, and selected our seat (are you team window or aisle?), when the next question pops up – Do you want to carbon offset this flight?
Frequent travellers are all familiar with the term ‘carbon offset’ by now, but do you ever stop to think about what it truly means? What exactly are carbon offsets, why do they matter, and whose responsibility are they? And if you’ve ever stopped to think about where your carbon offset money goes, we’ve got the answers!
What Are Carbon Offsets?
A carbon offset is a credit purchased to reduce the impact of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions made by an action, such as flying. Flying an airplane releases carbon dioxide into the environment, so by offsetting the damage caused by your flight with a carbon offset, you’re funding a program that will benefit the environment, essentially cancelling out the damage from your share of the flight’s carbon production. (As a reminder, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in our atmosphere, directly leading to climate change, so it’s not a good thing in large amounts.)
We know it sounds confusing, but in a nutshell, your carbon offset should be cancelling out the impact of your flight with something good for the planet – a carbon offset can go to anything from reforestation projects to sustainable hydropower plants.
Why Do Carbon Offsets Matter?
Flights are more expensive than ever these days, so it’s understandable that many travellers pause when it comes to paying even more to add on an offset. Does it really matter?
Yes – there’s no denying that flying does have a massive environmental impact on our environment. For every gallon of jet fuel burned, 21 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the environment. When you consider that, on average, 90,000 flights take off each day around the world, the amount of carbon dioxide released each day is incredibly large.
However, purchasing carbon offsets isn’t the only way you can help the planet when you travel. You can also help reduce your carbon footprint by combining trips when possible, taking public transport or walking when you arrive at your destination, avoiding single-use plastic bags, and purchasing sustainable, locally made souvenirs over mass-produced items.
Are All Carbon Offsets Created Equal?
Once you check ‘yes’ on your airline’s website to offset, your work is done – right? Not so fast…as an eco-conscious traveller, it’s important to know that not all carbon offsets are created equal, so it pays to do your due diligence before offsetting.
You might be familiar with the term ‘greenwashing’ when it comes to travel. Greenwashing is when a company markets themselves as environmentally friendly, but in practice, they’re not- this is a deceptive practice aimed at winning tourism dollars from eco-friendly travellers.
Does greenwashing happen in carbon offsetting? Unfortunately, yes – the entire industry isn’t regulated as well as it should be, with many carbon offset auditors, who are supposed to verify that companies are doing the right thing, turned out to be hired by the carbon project themselves – lots of middlemen and lack of on-the-ground oversight means the reality can become muddled.
You can avoid falling into the greenwashing trap by taking the time to research where your airline is sending their carbon offsets to make sure the projects they’re funding have a good reputation.
And if you’re not happy with your airline’s offset options, you can always offset your flights independently through companies like Tasman Environmental and Terrapass, which let you select which program your offsets go to.
Who Should Be Responsible for Carbon Offsetting?
If you’re wondering why the onus for carbon offsetting falls onto the passenger, rather than the airline, you’re not alone. There’s been a big push in recent years to push airlines (and corporations in general) to reduce their carbon emissions by switching to more sustainable practices, rather than forcing consumers to bear the brunt of the cost and responsibility.
At Chimu, we’re glad to say we now carbon offset all our client’s emissions when travelling on a cruise, scenic flight or land package booked through us, at our own cost, which is something we’d love to see more travel companies start doing.
At Chimu Adventures, Do You Carbon Offset? Where Do My Carbon Offsets Go When I Travel with Chimu?
We’re proud to say that we offset all our flights through Tasman Environmental. Not only do we offset each and every flight, but we offset all of our travel offerings, including each Antarctic cruise we sell.
Protecting our delicate environment is our number one priority as a company, as we want to ensure amazing destinations like Antarctica, the Amazon, and the Arctic stay healthy and pristine for future generations.
As an example of the projects we fund, our five Southern Lights by Flight scenic flights that flew between March and May of 2021 were fully carbon offset by the support of two projects:
Khe Bo Hydro
Khe Bo Hydro is a hydropower plant (water powered) project in Vietnam. Demand for power in Vietnam is increasing fast, but the country is very reliant on fossil fuels. Khe Bo reduces the use of fossil fuels by generating power for the country using dams to pass water through turbines, which creates energy.
ONIL Stoves Guatemala
In rural communities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, many people cook indoors on stone fireplaces, often in small rooms that aren’t well-ventilated. This can lead to air pollution and smoke damage to the health of those cooking, which often are women and children.
The ONIL Stoves program builds more energy efficient stoves for use in these households, improving air quality and reducing the health risks associated with smoke.
We believe in full transparency when it comes to our sustainability practices and our team are glad to answer any questions about carbon offsets!