We all know flying is bad for the environment – it’s suggested that commercial flights account for just above 2% of global carbon emissions, including the large proportion of the world that don’t fly at all. Whilst shaming people about flying is not the answer, those of us who are able to do something about it probably should. Not flying is not always possible (and let’s be honest, we all love a holiday every now and again), so carbon-offsetting is becoming more and more popular, with new organisations popping up with various solutions to the problem.
Below are some that you suggested, with some honest input about my flying habits, costs and plans for the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
Hometree.ie at Moy Hill Farm
If you’re looking for a relatable, home-grown feel, Moy Hill Farm tree planting is perfect. My friend knows the owners and frequently visits, seeing her previously planted trees. “By pledging you will be supporting a regenerative eco system” – Moy Hill also works with community to grow food and regenerate woodland to benefit the local community and wildlife. So far the charity has planted 14,000 native trees, such as Oak, Hazel and Birch. It’s difficult to know exactly how much carbon 10 trees (the minimum amount you can pledge) will offset, but knowing you are contributing to an amazing community project to the benefit of the local wildlife and environment is great.
Chooose uses your donations to fund the best UN-verified CO2 reducing projects in LEDCs. Just £2.50 per month (their ‘climate neutral’ option) offsets approximately 3 flights from Oslo to London per month. Donating different amounts per month allows you to be ‘climate positive’ (£3.99 per month) or a ‘climate champ’ (£7.98 per month), offsetting different amounts of flying. The website is easy to use and offers both subscriptions (donations per month) and one off donations (e.g. 6 month or 1 year options), depending on the amount you’re looking to offset and how much money you’re willing to part with. I love this idea and it’s super easy to use, but also think moving your money to an ethical bank (e.g. Triodos) could have a similar effect without actually costing you any money.
The Swiss not for profit organisation Climate.org works with partners both locally and globally to educate and consult on climate-protection projects. For individuals, it also provides a calculator for you to be able to calculate accurately your emissions, whether flying, driving, or simply living at home. After putting in your details, it provides a cost to offsetting those specific journeys, supporting international projects and sustainable development worldwide. There is some choice as to where your money goes e.g. helping smallhold farmers reforest areas or enable efficient cookers for women in Kenya.
I love this idea because it is very specific as to how you can offset your lifestyle. It also makes you think twice about longhaul flights. If I were to offset all my flights this year, according to this calculator it would cost me £153, the vast majority because of travelling to Tokyo for the marathon. For shorter journeys (e.g. Copenhagen) a payment of £5 was enough (bearing in mind this doesn’t include other travel).
Climate Care turns ‘climate responsibilities into positive outcomes’ providing tailored programmes to help organisations and individuals offset carbon emissions. This isn’t their only selling point though – they also work with governments to deliver large-scale emissions reduction projects and work with communities in LEDCs to build sustainable projects, improving the lives of people and benefitting the environment.
They also provide a calculator, which once you’ve calculated how much carbon you want to offset, gives you a cost for doing so. On this calculator it would cost me £53.40 for this year’s flights, compared to the £153 of MyClimate.org, but this could reflect the type of projects they’re funding. If you don’t know how much carbon you need to offset, Climate Care also provides flight, car, energy, event and business to calculate approximate carbon emissions, before allowing you to checkout, funding various projects around the world.
Atmosfair is a German non-profit organization that actively contributes to CO₂ mitigation by promoting, developing and financing renewable energies in over 15 countries worldwide. They rely on donations from individuals and businesses, working with both to mitigate emissions, with an emphasis on air travel, as currently there is no technological solution for greener air travel (e.g. electronic planes, although interestingly hybrid planes may soon be a reality). Atmosfair uses donations to fund the creation of renewable energy sources in countries where they hardly exist, but could be successfully utilised (e.g. solar power across the equator). In this way, atmosfair saves CO2 that would otherwise be released by the use of fossil fuels in these countries. Meanwhile, locals benefit by being able to access clean energy around the clock, often for the first time.
For personal offsetting, Atmosfair provides a calculator which separates out emissions by airline, so is even more personalised than the other calculators. As I travelled to Tokyo with British Airways, I found that I released 60% less CO2 than the average airline, taking my offsetting cost for this flight down to just £42.20, from £79 via MyClimate.org. The calculator gives an excellent breakdown of emissions, comparisons and costs for each flight taken, which I love.
Trees For Life
Slightly different to the above few organisations, Trees For Life focuses specifically on helping the Scottish Caledonian Forest ecosystem, providing a home for wildlife and regenerating old forest. Regenerating forest is a long process, but provides a multitude of environmental benefits. Whilst there is no calculator on the site to offset your specific emissions, donations to their accredited ‘Carbon Offsetting’ location are used to plant trees in their conservation estate, with the capacity to offset over 50,000 tonnes of CO2. Trees for Life also links to this carbon calculator to calculate how many trees you should plant to offset your particular emissions.
If you’re looking for something close to home (and are based in the UK!), this could be the project for you – it’s relatively small scale with measurable impacts, and speaks to my ecology brain!
I was interested to see that most of these companies don’t simply plant trees to offset carbon (what I thought might be the easiest and most marketing-friendly way of offsetting carbon). Most fund global projects to reduce future carbon emissions in one way or another, which means you’re not exactly offsetting your own carbon, but rather reducing carbon that might be released in future.
I love the idea of this, because offsetting carbon does nothing to actually change the fact that CO2 will always be released as long as non-renewables are still being used. Atmosfair, Climate Care and Chooose fund renewables and energy-saving projects in place of projects that would otherwise use non-renewables, thus changing the future potential emissions.
It’s hard to tell which is my favourite – Moy Hill Farm is close to home, easy and cheap, and provides the option to see the impact you’re having first hand, but no calculator or personalised offsetting that I can see. The Chooose Today subscription model is reasonably priced, scalable according to your income and travel plans and incredibly easy to use – I would say perfect for a present for a climate-conscious friend. MyClimate.org is expensive but comprehensive, and I can’t help but think trying to save money whilst offsetting carbon just means that you’ll be offsetting less carbon, but it’s hard to tell. Climate Care might be a favourite, because it costs less than MyClimate.org and seems to do a similar thing. German brand Atmosfair works closely with airlines, which I love – I think it’s time for the worst emitters to take responsibility for the own emissions, and I would feel more comfortable flying with an airline that I know offsets their carbon. It also provides the most comprehensive calculator that I saw, and reasonable costs too.
So, what did I do?
I pledged 10 native trees with Moy Hill Farm, because I love supporting small businesses (and to be honest it was the first one I saw and I wanted to do something there and then). This cost €30.
I offset my flights to and from Tokyo using Atmosfair, as it was the only one that allowed me to specify my airline. This cost €47.
The remaining 3.5T of carbon to be offset for this year’s past and upcoming flights, I used Climate Care. This cost £25.
In future I think I’d just use Atmosfair or Climate Care for all the reasons mentioned above and for simplicity. Don’t forget that if you don’t have money to spare like this, simple changes such as which bank you keep your money in can have huge impacts, either funding things such as arms and tobacco or more sustainable and ethical projects, such as renewable energy. The best one I’ve found is Triodos but I’d love to find some more!
Please comment below with your thoughts, questions and recommendations – I’d love to hear them all!