Air travel is a notorious guzzler of fossil fuels, which should make offsetting a no-brainer for conscious travellers.
What is offsetting?
In layman’s terms, the concept of carbon-offset schemes effectively means you are paying a price to remove the emissions produced when you fly or drive by investing in programs that have a positive effect on the Earth, thereby cancelling out or neutralising your impact. Think of it as yin and yang with the added bonus of frequent flyer points. Programs that airlines or their offsetting partners contribute to include reforestation, landcare and social initiatives that prevent the same amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere through their actions.
Cancel out the CO2 emissions you use when flying by offsetting.
Why should you do it?
Before the pandemic, research showed that greenhouse gas emissions from commercial air travel were growing at a much faster rate than previously predicted by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – up to 70 per cent faster, in fact. And while we all bought into the silver lining of lockdown resulting in a dramatic drop in greenhouse emissions, the zeal with which we have taken to the skies again over Australia means this was just a pause in proceedings. Indeed, a return to the larger-than-forecast increases of the past will end up cancelling out initiatives like developments in engine and aircraft efficiency and clean fuels altogether. So, short of never flying again, offsetting is a tangible way to cancel out the damage you do every time you board a plane.
Carbon offsetting is one way we can support initiatives that work to fight against the damage we’ve already done.
What difference does it make?
Maybe the question should be: ‘What is the alternative?’ With many tipping points already reached when it comes to climate change, at this stage we have to work on the premise that every little bit counts because the alternative is actually too frightening to contemplate. A good rule of thumb, if you are concerned about where exactly the difference is being made when you offset, is to choose companies and not-for-profits that support Australian initiatives so you can see both the benefit and the results in action.
Check that your carbon offsets support Australian initiatives so you can see both the benefit and the results in action.
How much does it cost?
Probably not as much as you think. While you would need an economics degree to properly understand the ins and outs of how carbon pricing works, and there is actually no standardised price on carbon, what we can tell you is that your emissions when flying are calculated based on the length of your journey, the type of aircraft you are travelling on and the cabin class you are seated in. All of this information is combined to produce a total CO2 emissions amount in tonnes, and then a charge is applied to this.
Protecting our green spaces is of paramount importance.
Greenfleet, a leading Australian not-for-profit environmental organisation established in 1997 with a mission to protect the climate by restoring forests, offers domestic carbon offsetting on both long-haul and short-haul flights. The cost of offsetting a return domestic short-haul flight (Melbourne to Sydney or Brisbane to Darwin) is just $14.40, while long-haul (Sydney to Perth or Melbourne to Broome) is $43.20.
It is often cheaper to offset through your chosen airline at the time of booking; a carbon-offset price for a return economy-class flight from Sydney to Adelaide on Qantas was just $3.30 when we logged onto the airline’s website, with an added commitment from the airline to match every dollar spent, doubling the positive impact (although we did note that ‘No thanks, not this trip’ is the default selection when the offsetting option appears in the booking process). Virgin Australia invests in programs that have social, environmental and economic benefits such as the Tasmanian Land Conservancy.
Research where your carbon offsetting contribution goes. (Image: Gordan River Tasmania; Steve Madgwick)
The best ways to do it?
One of the easiest ways to offset your flights is directly through the airline at the time of booking. The option is usually presented towards the end of the booking process (after adding check-in baggage, choosing travel insurance, and booking a hire car…), so make sure you scroll through all the pages and keep your eyes peeled for it. Some airlines use a calculator that allows you to put in your flight details separately and then click to buy. If the airline you are travelling with doesn’t provide offsetting options, you can then opt to offset your flights yourself through an Australian-based offset company like Greenfleet or TEM.