Offsetting my Air Travel (and then some)

As many people know, I tend to fly around the world a lot. A long time ago, back in about 2006 or 2007 I think, I signed up with Dopplr and put my travel in there. I did this mostly so I could hook up with friends I knew online as I travelled around the world. Well, this only actually resulted in actual meetups with friends once or twice I can remember, notably a few cocktails with Randal Schwartz in Hawai’i during our respective travels across the Pacific in opposite directions.

But one thing it did get me in the habit of doing is recording my travel accurately. Especially air travel. And at some point, it started having carbon footprint reporting functionality integrated.

It’s not 100% accurate, but it’s a good approximation. For instance, the precise carbon footprint of an air flight would be dependent on the model of aircraft, how full loaded the aircraft was, even the flight time, path, etc. But such precision is not necessary for its use as a crude footprint tool.

But it did let me know that since I’ve been recording my travel, it has been been responsible for 25 tonnes of CO₂ emissions. I think I offset just one flight before.

Well, I just went and offset all 25 Tonnes of it. Of course buying offsets is all about buying them from the right place, and I found a great directory: the Carbon Catalog, which seemed to be very inclusive and included sites I’d heard positive reviews of before. Wary of the possibility that some programmes are not providing real offsets, I looked into a few of them, and preferred:

  • projects which I understood how the offsets worked to really result in a lower CO₂ levels in the world,

  • projects which had independent certifications, in particular the certification known as the “Gold Standard”

  • projects which did not sell credits for the lowest price, under the “too good to be true” principal.

  • companies based in countries that have an emissions trading scheme

The projects I chose were priced around US$10 - $20 per tonne, so my 25 tonnes come to about $350. Not bad really, especially if you consider that the actual cost of those flights and travel over those years could have been as high as $10,000.

And in fact, because it’s Christmas, I went and bought my descendents a present - 25 tonnes of CO₂ offset I didn’t need to purchase.

I chose these programmes:

  • TerraPass - they have three programs, and I bought 10,000lb of offsets from each of them.

  • - they have a variety of projects, and a relatively cheap (but certainly not dodgy cheap) price per unit, and I bought 10 tonnes from them from their “basket”

  • Climate friendly - an Australian company, I bought 4 tonnes from them.

  • South Pole Carbon Asset Management Ltd - a Swiss company, with emphasis on certification. I bought a total of 24 tonnes from this company, with 4 projects - a Taiwanese wind farm, an Indonesian geothermal plant, as well as reforestation projects in Uganda and Columbia.

I haven’t yet crunched the numbers to see whether or not I’m carbon neutral or not, but my rough understanding is that air travel is by far the most substantial contribution to one’s carbon footprint that there is. Plus there’s all my travel before 2007 - notably two and a half return trips to the UK from New Zealand I need to offset - which I’ll get to in time.

In the mean time, I’ve offset the lion’s share of my carbon footprint for myself, and for one other person in the world like me who doesn’t yet believe in this stuff, or at least not enough to spend good money on it.

And my new year’s resolution? Well, all my fitness stuff is already taken care of, so I can’t count that twice. So, I guess my new resolution can be to keep being carbon-negative.

I invite all those who are concerned about the future of the planet to join me in this pledge of double-offsetting.

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