Flying, eh? Once an unadulderated indulgence of free peanuts and beer, now a morally dubious mode of transport that accounts for 2 per cent of CO2 emissions globally and is growing fast. I've just returned from a London Heathrow to New York JFK trip for work, and have been checking out the ways I can do a tiny bit of good for the environment - and, if I'm being honest - offset my guilt a fraction too. There's a round-up of the ways you can 'offset' - make an attempt to cancel out - your flight's greenhouse gases after the click-through. [Photo by Orangeacid]
Here are four of the big offsetting options:
- Carbonneutral. Probably the most well-known of all the offsetting outfits. It has a great CO2 calculator that goes as far as listing airport names all over the world, so you can plot exactly how much planet-warming gas you've emitted by your flight: apparently 0.6 tonnes for my LHR-NYC JFK round-trip. All I have to pay is £4.44 to plant some UK trees, which seems too easy. You can also choose for the money to go into developing solar, wind and hydro projects around the world.
- Treeflights says I should pay £20 for a return, even though it doesn't know whether I've flown from Heathrow to Edinburgh, or Gatwick to Sydney. It plants trees in Wales to eat up some of the carbon from your flight. [further story here]
- CO2Balance reckons I should pay £29 for a long-haul flight - it gives London to Perth as an example. The cash goes to energy efficiency projects and tree-planting.
- Climatecare, the choice of BA and The Guardian, says I've caused 1.54 tonnes of CO2 to go into the atmosphere - nearly three times what Carbonneutral estimates - for my NYC trip. I should pay £11.55 to offset, with the money going to energy efficiency, renewables and tree-planting projects.
So, four wildly different choices for a journey that's 6880 miles round. In the end, I plumped for Climatecare partly because of the big names endorsing it, but also because it uses an airport calculator and is asking for more cash than Carbonneutral. Plus I donated £20 to Friends of the Earth for good measure.
Obviously, the greenest option is to not fly at all, but sometimes - for work, say - you're going to board a plane. In the meantime, airlines could do much more reduce their emissions, as Virgin recently pushed for.