There’s no avoiding a conversation on how we choose to tackle our impact on the environment, especially for those of us who choose air travel. The impact of air travel on the environment is great, and for all those generations to come, it seems rational for us to evolve. So we each shall evolve in our own way. Be it by contributing to a conversation or directly offsetting carbon emissions.
I’ve heard there are two ways an individual can choose to make the largest impact on our environment. First is by electing to eat a plant based diet (equally as topical, but best left to a dietician to elaborate on elsewhere), second is to fly less. In Sweden, this second notion has taken off (pun intended) with a movement called flight shaming.
Flight shaming is the term used to describe the shame cast upon those who travel for the purpose of entertainment or leisure without offsetting (although this movement is likely to gravitate further towards air travel in general, not just for enjoyments sake). Greta Thunberg (the uber determined Generation Voice climate change activist, who happens to be from Sweden) famously sailed across the Atlantic twice, to avoid air travel. Her demonstration to the World, a message that it is possible to make a switch.
True as that may be, I can’t help but wonder what the future of travelling is for those of us based in more isolated countries. Here in New Zealand it would take between 70 and 120 days to sail to America, for example, versus Greta’s 15 day voyage.
Because my work involves air travel I have been forced to think hard about the concept of flight shaming, offsetting carbon emissions of flying, and my role on our impact to the environment. But honestly, the principle extends so much deeper than work, it runs into having a greater conscience for what tomorrow might look like.
No doubt I’m not alone when I say that initially the idea of offsetting carbon emissions of flying didn’t make much sense to me. In my mind, flying impacts the environment regardless of what act we do afterward to feel better about it. In short; if my family and I fly from New Zealand to Hawaii, the carbon emissions occur regardless of whether or not we do this thing called ‘offsetting’. So there in lies the question; what does it mean to offset carbon emissions.
The answer to that begins with understanding the petrifying term ‘carbon emissions’. Somehow the term has become a part of pop culture, yet without a science background how are we suppose to truly know what it means? Well, jet fuel releases greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) into the environment. These gases block heat from escaping into the atmosphere, which in turn keeps heat low and thus a change in climate occurs. Trees, however, absorb carbon dioxide helping to clean up the jet fuel. And so, one truly positive way to offset the jet fuel that is released into the environment when we fly, is to plant trees in the earth which absorb the equivalent volume of carbon dioxide to that of your seat on the flight.
Where it all gets very exciting (ok maybe just for me) is how easy it is to offset, and how enjoyable the process is. As individual that our travel choices are, is also the way we can offset our emissions.
Most carbon offsetting websites have user friendly calculators (so simple even your Grandma could figure it out, I’m certain of it) to manually determine emission output. Simply type where your travelling from and to, plus how many people are going. Then press enter (oh so simple!). Next, most of the sites take you to a simple, and effective screen asking what you want to do. This is where it gets really exciting.
Options include planting trees in Uruguay to the value of your emissions, contributing towards wind power in Turkey, there’s even improving cook stoves in Kenya, and close to home options such as planting native tress in New Zealand. At a guess, these options change periodically as needs do, but the options make a lot of sense; directly absorbing greenhouse gases caused from air travel.
Some of us have been focused on this for a long time. Some of us are new to carbon offsetting, and our impact on the environment. But, well, we can all probably learn a little bit more about it as a stepping stone to making change, at the very least.
So, for those of us who are not quite at the stage of spending 170 days sailing to America, don’t yet feel ashamed about flying for leisure and desire a future where air travel is a part of our annual experience, offsetting travel emissions is a positive option.
If you would like to offset your flight carbon emissions, here is our chosen partner: https://ekos.org.nz/flying