Today is Earth Day and what better way to celebrate than to announce that I am pledging to become a carbon neutral flyer. This year I wanted to make an impact that will create positive change on a larger scale.
Within the last year, it seems like environmental awareness has risen by ten-fold to help save our oceans, rainforests, and planet by reducing waste, cutting out single-use plastics, and (the most impactful one) raising awareness. I have already pledged to take more direct flights across the Pacific and Atlantic, even if it does cost a little bit more money so that I can reduce my CO2 contribution and bring it to an absolute minimum. While this will do a lot, I want to take the next step and offset all of my carbon emissions for every flight I take, big or small, and give back to a local community or project that will help make this world a little greener and give others a better way of life.
After reading The Blonde Abroad’s post on her pledge to offset her carbon footprint, I wanted to pledge to do this alongside her and many other travelers because traveling in a sustainable way is one of my biggest priorities while booking a trip and since airplanes are one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, I knew that this was the next step for me in my sustainability journey. These are all the ways I am pledging to offset my carbon emissions and how you can too!
Want to start traveling more sustainably? Check out these awesome resources!
The Importance of CO2 Pollution + Our Carbon Footprint
So what’s all the hub-bub about carbon dioxide? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide contributes to over 60% of global greenhouse emissions all over the world. They say that,
“Fossil fuel use is the primary source of CO2. CO2 can also be emitted from direct human-induced impacts on forestry and other land use, such as through deforestation, land clearing for agriculture, and degradation of soils. Likewise, land can also remove CO2 from the atmosphere through reforestation, improvement of soils, and other activities.”
We contribute to CO2 pollution in everything we do: the food we eat, the cars we drive, the flights we take, and the products we consume, and with over 7 billion people contributing to this pollution every single day, there’s a lot going on up in our atmosphere and down here on Earth. CO2 then contributes to air pollution which can cause damages to crops, oceans, wildlife, and ozone depletion, and it has. Our CO2 levels in the ozone are the highest that they have been in over 3 million years, and that is why we need to act fast and we need to act now.
What Is A Carbon Footprint?
A carbon footprint is “the amount of greenhouse gases—primarily carbon dioxide—released into the atmosphere by a particular human activity. A carbon footprint can be a broad measure or be applied to the actions of an individual, a family, an event, an organization, or even an entire nation.” In this case, it’s our everyday actions and choices that we make. Hm. So it sounds like this whole carbon emissions thing is inevitable? Yes, it is, but luckily there are many resources where we can calculate our carbon emissions and offset them to reduce this number as much as we can.
How To Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
Lucky for us, we don’t have to do a bunch of fancy calculations to know our carbon footprint. Gold Standard is my personal favorite as it is a non-profit organization that allows you to calculate your carbon footprint and then donate it to whatever project or charity you life. This way you know exactly where your money is being put whether it’s water for a village, planting trees, or sustainable agriculture in rural areas. They are still working on their own Carbon Footprint Calculator, but you can use any of the other three sites for an estimate and then use that amount to donate to a project which is what I do.
What Is Carbon Offsetting?
To put things in layman’s terms, “carbon offsetting means compensating for the carbon-dioxide pollution you’re making (your carbon footprint) by preventing the same amount of pollution from happening somewhere else.” So if you were to fly across the Atlantic or Pacific, you would then donate or contribute to something that would counter that like planting trees or reef restoration that would then take that CO2 out of the atmosphere. Think of it like this:
2 tons (contributing by flying) + (-2 tons) (trees planted) = 0 tons
A similar name for this would be carbon neutral, where the total amount we contribute is canceled out by planting trees, giving back, and helping the Earth. Since I am pledging to go offset my carbon emissions for flying, I can calculate exactly what my contribution is and make part of my travel carbon footprint neutral! If you want a little bit more information about what carbon offsetting is, there is a great article that explains everything here.
Will Offsetting Flying Emissions Make Any Difference?
Air travel accounts for 12% of the total transportation emissions in the United States. Even if we all offset our carbon emissions for air travel, that would lessen the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 12%.
That twelve percent represents trees planted, clean water to rural communities in Africa, sustainable farming practices in South America, wind power, reef restoration, forest regeneration, and many more that are much more than simply pulling CO2 out of the ozone. It’s improving the lives of others, the Earth, and the way that you travel.
5 Ways You Can Lessen Your Carbon Footprint
Donate To Carbon Offsetting Projects
This tip has been the main highlight of this blog post since I believe it has the most impact globally, but this is a great way to know exactly what projects your money is going towards. Gold Standard, as I mentioned before, is a great resource for donations, but you can also use Carbon Fund. If you want to get even more hands-on, you can always dedicate part of your trip to participating in one of these projects, make sure that it is the correct fit for you. There is a great blog post here that highlights what you should know before you go so you don’t end up supporting something like this.
Choose More Sustainable Airlines
Not only is choosing sustainable airlines important but taking more direct routes are going to reduce carbon emissions since the landing and takeoff are the largest contributors to airplane carbon emissions. Trust me, I am so guilty of booking 30+ hours of flying just so I can get a cheaper price, but now I am choosing to have a happy medium. Spend a bit more and knock off a flight or two when I am traveling to Asia or Europe. One of the top ways you can take fewer flights for a better price is by signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights. I don’t have any affiliation, but it’s a site I use personally and love finding deals on. They feature the top airlines and you can book direct or one-stop flights for a fraction of the price.
In addition to booking more sustainable routes, it’s important to choose more sustainable airline companies. There is a guide that the ICCT, The International Council On Clean Transportation releases a guide every year to the greenest airlines with the top international airlines ranking as:
With the top domestic airlines ranking as:
Lucky for us, a lot of these aren’t the most boujie airlines and we can save money by trying to travel more frequently with these carriers. Southwest is actually my favorite domestic airline to fly, so I was really excited to see them rank on this list.
Use Public Transport, Drive Less, + Carpool
Overland transportation slides into that same piece of the pie as flying, only we have a bit more options for this one. In the US, this tends to be a little difficult since everything is so far away and public transportation is really only in the larger cities, but by doing things like sharing rides, taking one car opposed to two, and driving less are all ways that we can reduce this footprint.
Reduce, Reuse, + Recycle
This cliche saying has received a really negative connotation, in my opinion, but this is singlehandedly one of the best ways that we can reduce our carbon emissions in everyday life. By consuming less, reusing old materials and products, and recycling what we do consume, this can help us all be more mindful of what we consume and how we consume it. I do think there should be more emphasis on reducing and reusing, but recycle when you can and always reuse single-use items for as long as they hold up and then recycle them later on.
Support Sustainable Companies (Clothing, Food, Products)
If you thought your boarding pass was causing huge amounts of CO2, take a look at the shirt that you’re wearing. It’s estimated that the fashion industry accounts for 10% of the global carbon emissions. Everything we consume takes a process to make it, so if we can try to support as many companies that prioritize ethical practices and the health of the planet as we can, then we can create a huge amount of change, and even demand more sustainable practices from larger corporations. You can buy organic produce when possible, shop at farmer’s markets, thrift your clothes over buying new, make some zero waste swaps for your everyday life and travel, and so much more. As my favorite saying goes, “Any dollar you spend… Or don’t is a vote you cast for the world you want”.
What I Am Doing To Offset My Carbon Footprint
For every single flight that I take, I am going to donate it to a project that supports the health of developing local communities in rural areas, and I am going to put all of them in a list here so that you all can see my progress! While I haven’t flown at all this year since I have been getting my website redesigned, I plan on taking off in June to go to Iceland for two weeks, and I’ll track those all down below.
DFW ➝ YYZ =
YYZ ➝ YUL =
YUL ➝ KEF =
KEF ➝ YUL =
YUL ➝ DFW =
Along with becoming a carbon neutral flyer, I also shop ethically made clothing and second hand, eat a plant-based diet, use zero waste swaps and avoid single-use plastics, support local business, and buy used camera gear. I really want to make a huge change this year, so I have been taking baby steps towards a little to zero waste lifestyle as well. I truly have a deep passion for the planet and making as little impact as I can, so I am really looking forward to creating positive change in the world as I travel it.
What will you do to offset your carbon emissions this year? Share with me in the comments below!
This post may contain affiliate links for the products or services I mentioned, but as always, all opinions are my own. I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase or booking through these links. This helps to support this space and keep me blogging, which I am so extremely thankful for.