How I Became a Carbon-Neutral Air Traveller
Updated: Apr 13
Killarney National Park, Ireland (Photo by Irina Spector)
My New Year’s resolution this year was to travel less by plane and when I do need to fly, to offset my air travel emissions by buying carbon credits.
WHY would I want to make this my New Year's resolution?
The answer is that I want to minimize, and eventually eliminate, my personal contribution to global warming caused by human-induced climate change. Climate change negatively affects our planet causing longer and stronger than usual droughts, floods, fires, and hurricanes. According to NOAA global temperatures rose about 1.8°F (1°C) from 1901 to 2020, and continue to rise.
By increasing the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, human activities are amplifying Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and various chlorofluorocarbons are all human-emitted heat-trapping gases. Among these, carbon dioxide is of greatest concern because it exerts a larger overall warming influence than the other gases combined.
The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has risen by 25% since 1958, and about 40% since the Industrial Revolution.
Aviation contributes around 4% to human-induced global warming with airplanes emitting one billion tons of CO2 per year, around 100 times more per hour than a shared bus or train ride.
Carbon emissions of global aviation are around 1 billion tons of CO2 per year, an estimated 2.4% of global CO2 emissions. This is more than the emissions of most countries, including Germany.
WHAT did I calculate?
Last year I traveled twice to visit my family in Israel and once to Chicago. My three round-trip flights emitted about 6.5 tons of CO2 just for me as one passenger. That is equal to the amount of CO2 a typical gasoline-powered car emits over 16 months.
HOW did I compensate for my emissions?
Yesterday I went online and invested in carbon credits from the projects that had removed 6.5 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, the amount my last year’s flights emitted.
Carbon credits are measurable, verifiable emission reductions from certified climate action projects. These projects reduce, remove or avoid GHG emissions, including CO2, by, for example, avoiding deforestation, capturing methane gas from landfills, or composting.
High-quality carbon credits adhere to a strict set of standards and are registered with a third-party internationally-recognized verification standard, such as the Gold Standard, Verra's Verified Carbon Standard, Climate Action Reserve, or American Carbon Registry.
Considering how much controversy carbon credits caused in the media lately, I made sure to choose only trusted sources to calculate my flight emissions and buy third-party verified carbon credits.
I calculated emissions using South Pole’s calculator (I liked that I could count emissions for specific flights), and I bought offsets from Gold Standard (I found affordable credits there for the causes I care about). Of course, there are other trusted carbon credit providers, and I can recommend a few.
My 2022 air travel is now carbon neutral, which means I offset all emissions produced while I was flying, resulting in net-zero air travel emissions for last year. My personal emissions reduction plan for the future is flying only when no other comparably convenient option is available.
The next step for me will be to calculate all personal emissions, including emissions from travel, energy, transportation, food, and other carbon-emitting activities. Knowing my emissions will help me decide where I could reduce them without affecting the quality of my life, and in many cases - even improve it. For example, I could start by changing all bulbs in my house to LED or shopping locally for locally-grown food...
Every time I am in nature I can't help but marvel at its beauty, and think about how it helps us, humans, exist on this planet. Nature gives us everything: the food we eat, the energy we use, the building supplies for our dwellings, and so much more! Living in synergy with our planet ensures our survival as species. Reducing the amount of pollution we personally create is a small but very important step toward healing our planet, our home, and our future.
When we all do it together, a small step becomes a giant one if we all step in the right direction!