While the widespread and affordable air travel has made globetrotting easier, the convenience comes at a great cost to the environment.
Terrapass.com has an online store that allows users to easily buy carbon offsets and interesting environmentally-aware gifts
A May 2008 report from the Stockholm Environment Institute said that civil aviation accounts for around 5% of total man-made greenhouse gases. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s carbon emissions calculator, a single round trip between Mumbai and New Delhi in economy class generates around 250kg of carbon dioxide per passenger.
But now you can do something about it. A number of airlines and third-party companies now let passengers calculate and then offset the carbon emitted during their journeys. In response to an email questionnaire, a spokesperson for British Airways (BA) said that for the past one year, since the airline unveiled a new carbon offset scheme for passengers, consumers had responded enthusiastically. The new system allows passengers to add a carbon offset to their ticket cost and pay for both in one transaction. At the time of writing this article, passengers booking a return ticket to London from New Delhi on BA could offset their carbon load by paying an extra Rs1,465. The money from these purchases is then used to finance projects that create clean energy and reduce gas emissions, thereby, offsetting the emissions created by your trip.
BA said that, currently, around 4% of all bookings made via the ba.com website included offsets for carbon emissions. This, they said, equalled the offsetting of 50,000 tonnes of carbon or “taking 16,000 mid-sized cars off the road”.
Even if you travel by airlines that do not offer an offset as part of your total fare, you can still do a good deed through third-party services such as TerraPass.com or Atmosfair.de. Both websites let you calculate your carbon load based on your origin and destination, and then buy offsets.
A popular item in the online store is climate change chocolate
Erik Blachford, chief executive of TerraPass Inc., said the main factors that determine carbon load were “length of the trip, the aircraft being used, the class of service—first class uses proportionally more of the aircraft’s carrying capacity—and the routing—direct flights are generally cleaner than connections, because take-off and landing is very carbon-intensive”.
BA said that, currently, the airline supports wind farms, hydroelectric plants and sustainable power plants in China and Brazil. Blachford said that TerraPass directly supported greenhouse gas reduction projects in the US.
All projects funded by both TerraPass and BA are certified by carbon credit auditors, who ensure that the money you are forking out is used to genuinely reduce emissions on your behalf and as per the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol.
Even though the economic slowdown has dampened interest in carbon offsets of late, Blachford is confident of sustained support: “Environmental causes of all kinds tend to be a little lower down the priority list compared to the staples of life like food and shelter, and at such incredibly dislocated economic times as these that shows up as lower levels of support across the board for environmental causes. But global warming as a problem isn’t going to go away, so I imagine we’ll see interest for years to come.”