How to Carbon Offset Your Air Travel

How to Carbon Offset Your Air Travel

If you've ever calculated your carbon footprint, you know one of the major components is miles traveled via airplane. For those of us who love to travel and want it to continue being a major part of our life, this leaves us with a real dilemma. 

We love the earth and we want to protect it, but we also really want to continue seeing it. An imperfect, but still good, solution to fix the environmental degradation is to buy carbon offsets. 

What is a carbon offset?

A carbon offset is a reduction in carbon emissions to compensate for an emission made elsewhere. When you purchase a carbon offset from an organization they are either using that money to offset emissions on a current project or they are using the money to build a greener future project. These projects could include anything from solar power, to planting trees, to fuel efficiency projects. 

This is essentially a way of paying it forward - you offset your negative environmental contributions with positive ones. There is, of course, discussion of whether or not this is just a license to pollute. But for many travelers, this is simply the best (and often only) option to traveling greener. It's also better to something than nothing. 

wind turbines

Buying Carbon Offsets & Carbon Offset Programs

There are many airlines that offer carbon offset programs, but there are also third-party organizations that sell carbon offsets. Before purchasing from any organization, make sure they are a reputable company - this is the best list of how to verify carbon offsets that I've seen. 

These are a few companies you can purchase carbon offsets from:

How to Carbon Offset Your Air Travel

Airlines with Carbon Offset Programs

There are several airlines that offer carbon offset programs. Feel free to update us in the comments if you know of others. 

  • Air New Zealand - offers a carbon offsetting purchase under FlyNeutral program at time of booking.

  • Austrian - C02 calculator offers suggested amount for offsets at the time of booking.

  • British Airways - runs The Carbon Fund which allows passengers to donate to low carbon, energy efficiency, or renewable energy projects in the UK or Africa.

  • Brussels Airlines - passengers are invited to participate in a carbon offset program after booking a flight. Offsets are used to develop initiatives in their African destinations.

  • Cathay Pacific - passengers can use their calculator to determine their emissions and can use cash or miles to pay.

  • Delta - passengers can use their calculator to determine their emissions and then make a donation to The Nature Conservancy using cash or miles.

  • Japan Airlines (JAL) - offers a climate calculator that allows passengers to donate to a variety of Japanese low carbon projects.

  • JetBlue - offers a carbon offset through the Carbonfund.org that passengers can donate to.

  • Lufthansa - partners with myclimate.org to allow passengers to calculate their emissions and donate to myclimate's projects.

  • Qantas - calculates passenger's offsets at the time of booking and allows them to several programs in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) - offers a calculator for passengers and ability to purchase offsets through Natural Capital Partners.

  • United - offers a calculator for passengers and offsets that can be purchased with cash or miles.

To see more on specific airline carbon offset programs, see the comparison table in this post

Further Suggested Reading

Need more information on green travel and carbon offsets? Check out:

Can Eco-Conscious Travelers Do Anything to Fly Green? - Smithsonian

What on Earth is a Carbon Offset? - Conservation International


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