You take a reusable coffee cup with you, say no plastic straws and have even decided to go meatless on Mondays; but have conveniently chosen to leave your love of travel out of the sustainable lifestyle equation.
For many eco-conscious individuals, cutting back on flying to exotic destinations or experiencing the world’s wonders is not on the agenda, even when faced with the reality that plane travel has the highest negative environmental impact of any single decision they will likely make this year.
In our highly popular article, The 5 Sustainability Trade-Offs That Even Hard Core Environmentalists Make we explored how even the most eco-conscientious of individuals conveniently choose to ignore the impact of their travel.
Since not travelling is out of the question for many, and particularly for millennial travellers, the only option left is to purchase ‘carbon offsets‘ so that the greenhouse emissions generated by air travel is offset or is compensated by positive environmental contributions elsewhere such as projects that focus on planting trees, conserve biodiversity or heavily reduces energy consumption in buildings.
How to purchase carbon offsets when flying
When booking online, you have the option of offsetting your flight. If you elect to choose this option, a small charge will be added to the cost of your flight. Depending on the airline, there may also be an option to offset your domestic or international flight by entering your flight details through the airline’s website.
How are emissions calculated?
An extensive life cycle assessment is used to calculate greenhouse gas emissions which factors fuel consumed and air pollution for example. These assessments are independently verified on an annual basis to ensure validity and accuracy.
Where does your contribution go?
Different airlines invest in projects that are compliant with relevant certifiers such as NCOS Carbon Neutral which enables the airline to invest in projects that help to offset emissions from your flight. Most projects have an environmental or social and economic benefit and each positively contribute to the atmosphere in some way.
So if you’re feeling a sense of wanderlust, and need to book your next flight, here are seven airline companies that offer carbon offset programs that you may want to consider booking with:
Qantas is Australia’s largest domestic and international airline and has been certified carbon neutral under the NCOS Carbon Neutral Program since 2007. According to the airline, its Qantas Fly Carbon Neutral Scheme has offset over 2.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions, making it the largest offsetter of any airline company in the world.
Qantas’s carbon offset projects invests in a variety of environmental and social projects such as:
- protecting wilderness areas such as 7000 hectares of native Tasmanian forest
- empowering rainforest communities in Papua New Guinea
- and reinvigorating indigenous traditions by supporting the North Kimberley Fire Abatement Project
As an airline we don’t believe in simply passing responsibility to our customers – we are responsible for minimising our emissions.” – Emirates website
Emirates is an airline that believes in the “emitter-pays principle” which means they don’t pass on the responsibility of carbon offsetting on to their customers. Instead they focus on reducing emissions through various sustainability initiatives including water efficiency projects, recycling and waste-minimisation processes, and investment in conservation-based tourism developments such as the Wolgan Valley Resort in Australia.
3. Virgin Australia
Driving the sustainable aviation industry is Virgin Australia, an airline deeply committed to environmental practices as much as any airline can, in the face of shareholder pressure and climate change. Virgin Australia launched its carbon offset program in 2007 and was the world’s first government certified airline offset program. Its supports the Tasmanian Land Conservancy which funds projects that protect biodiversity, rare species and invests in scientific research.
4. Delta Airlines
Delta’s carbon offset program was the first of its kind launched in the United States back in 2007. It offers customers the chance to reduce the environmental impacts of their travel by donating funds towards environmental projects. Delta works with The Nature Conservancy to ensure customer dollars are invested in forest protection projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide other benefits to the environment. The American airline also offers travellers a flight carbon calculator to help them plan the costs of carbon offsetting.
5. British Airways
British Airways is another ‘conscious’ provider of air transport services. The British airline joined forces with Pure Leapfrog in 2011 to develop the first passenger program to assist UK based community energy projects AKA The Carbon Fund.
The Carbon Fund is a voluntary scheme for British Airways’ customers who wish to mitigate the impact of their flight. Leapfrog manages the funds for the airline and ensures funds are put towards community-based projects that reduce carbon emissions but also have positive social impact, such as installing solar panels on schools roofs, fitting modern low energy LED lights or introducing low impact appliances in community buildings.
Qantas’s low-cost airline carrier Jetstar flies to 85 destinations around the world and just like Qantas, is committed to operating in a sustainable manner by offering a Fly Carbon Neutral Program. Unlike Emirates, Jetstar passes the responsibility on to the customer so it is ultimately their decision should they wish to minimise their environmental impact. If they do, Jetstar uses these funds to invest in environmental and community development projects that protect the habitat of endangered species in Australia or invest in educational programs in developing countries.
7. Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand is another climate change concerned airline which offers customers the opportunity to voluntarily offset the carbon emissions associated with their air travel. It offers customers a carbon offset travel calculator too should they wish to calculate ahead of time the additional costs associated with offsetting. The airline also set up the Air New Zealand Environmental Trust to support small conservation projects within its borders such as the reserve at Mangarara Station in Hawke’s Bay where they are planting 85,000 trees.
With millions of people the world over being bitten by the travel bug, the burden on our environment is expected to skyrocket over the next two decades. Choosing to offset will help to mitigate the impacts of your plane travel and keep our skies and planet a little cleaner.
Don’t fly with these airlines, but still want to offer your flight? Check out this post that provides more details about carbon offsetting and independently run carbon offset programs. It also provides details of how to tell good programs from the mediocre ones on offer.