Offsetting the Fear of Flying
It was only after reading George Monbiot’s book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, that I first became aware of how much CO2 is emitted by air travel.
According to Carbonfund.org, CO2 emissions in air travel vary by length of flight–ranging from .24 kg CO2 per passenger mile for short flights down to .18 kg CO2 per passenger mile for long flights. I believe these calculators assume a full plane so the carbon offset value is based on each person’s piece of the total. Unfortunately, I had already booked a round-trip flight from New York City to Aruba and guilt immediately set in. How could I be a climate change evangelist and then step onto that plane knowing I was greatly contributing to global warming? And just how much CO2 were my wife and I going to be responsible for?
Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma known as carbon offset.
A carbon offset is a certificate representing the reduction of one metric ton (2,205 lb) of carbon dioxide emissions. Any project that reduces carbon emissions such as wind farms, reforestation, biomass energies, and hydroelectric power, among others, can be financed by carbon offset sales.
Of course, the best solution is to not fly or to do anything that emits CO2, but that is not a practical reality. If one must emit CO2, purchasing carbon offsets can at least make that activity carbon neutral (in theory). There are some controversies to using carbon offsets mostly concerning large corporations, but for individuals, I think the positives outweigh the negatives.
The image below shows that for our flight we would be responsible for about 1 metric ton of CO2.
To calculate this value I used the Carbon Footprint Calculator at terrapass. I can see that I will need to buy about one carbon offset to offset our emissions. Now I can at least fly with less guilt. (BTW, 2,284 lb of CO2 is about what our two cars emit in two months. One round trip flight = two months of driving. Wow!)
In my blog post titled I am Saving 21% on my Electric Bill – So Can You! I showed how I became more energy efficient and saved money when I did so. Even a good energy-saver still emits CO2 so I decided to use a carbon offset calculator from e-Blue Horizons to figure out how much CO2 I emit from home, auto, and air. See the image below for a look at that calculator:
To get the most accurate measure, you will need to know your annual utility usage, car mileage and MPG, and air miles flown. If you do not know these values you can always use the default averages for typical Americans in your individual categories. I tried the calculator with exact values and then with the averages and I ended up with lower emissions than average, primarily because I use much less electric and heating oil than the average Long Islander.
It turns out that my home, two cars, and limited air travel amount to an annual CO2 emission of 16 tons per year so I need to buy 16 carbon offsets to become carbon neutral for these categories. There are differing prices for offsets but most range between $5 and $15 US per offset. That means I will pay between $80 and $240 depending on which provider I choose. That choice will depend on price and types of projects I would prefer to finance. I chose e-Blue Horizons and retired 20 carbon offsets. Hey, who says you have to give the minimum, right?
e-Blue Horizons also sends a nice certificate and offers its clients the option of sending somebody retired offsets as a gift. So now you know what to give “the person who has everything”.
OK. Your turn. J