Is It Possible to Carbon Offset Your Flights?

Travelling anywhere overseas from Australia sees you on a flight anywhere from three to 24 hours long. You could say we’re all pretty used to long-haul flights, but what does this mean for the environment? The Carbon Independent Org calculates that roughly 90kg of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere every hour of a flight, which means most of us who are flying internationally release large amounts of carbon dioxide on most of our international trips.

You might be wondering if it’s possible to make up for your environmental impact with carbon offsetting. So we’ve investigated how you can do just that and why you should.  

Images: Getty

Around 30 international airlines under the International Airlines Transport Association have voluntary carbon offsetting schemes within their search engines or through third-party providers. You might have even seen the option to ‘top up’ your ticket with offsets when booking.

This is done by calculating how much carbon dioxide will be released into the air during your journey and investing in projects that reduce the equivalent carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Different companies do this in different ways, such as planting trees and mangroves, or investing in more controlled, eco-friendly cookstoves

Related: What Is Regenerative Travel and How Do You Do It?

Related: How to Speak to Your Kids About Climate Action (Without Scaring Them)

Carbon offsetting has been met with a bit of suspicion because the details and actual impact of these projects are sometimes lost or unaccounted for. Take, for example, an airline that offers to offset its carbon footprint by preserving rainforests in Indonesia. If the airline you’re buying from has transparent information about their offsetting projects, look out for the following indicators:

  • The project exists: Look up the exact name and geographical location of the rainforest to confirm its existence.
  • The project has been vetted by more than one just the airline itself: Apart from the airline, are there any other third parties or NGOs that have mentioned this rainforest? This helps to ensure that the rainforest has been accounted for by more than one person.
  • The project is permanent: Has there been any news around the demolition or forest fires that have threatened this rainforest? These criteria might be hard to follow in the long run with many changing decisions around ecological spaces but at the time of purchase, take note of the status quo of the area and any news surrounding its preservation.
  • The project has no leakage: As the term suggests, carbon offsetting projects may lead to the protection of one section of rainforest but the ‘leaking’ of emissions to another place. This leakage would render your offset counterproductive. Look up information around the geographical area to find out if any areas in the perimeter of the ecological space have been compromised. 

As with any effort in sustainability, carbon offsetting requires some level of conscious research and thought. In terms of cost, the prices are modest and range between $2 and $30, depending on the length of the flight, the number of stopovers, your flight class, and the number of passengers on the flight. Consequently, taking shorter flights and travelling on airlines with more efficient use of fuel, and sitting in economy class on a full-capacity flight will cost you significantly less in carbon offsets. Many flights offer the option of calculating your carbon footprint and its offsetting costs within the ticketing portal.

Keeping tabs on your flight carbon footprint over time helps you to be accountable and aware of your travel habits. However, if you choose not to offset your flight, you’re not going to be flight-shamed. There are many alternatives to travelling sustainably that can come during or before your trip to ensure that you leave a positive impact on the planet during your trip. 

At present, aviation accounts for 2.5% of global carbon dioxide production, as only 6% of the world is said to fly globally. Until the aviation industry expands to become accessible for all and innovates with new, greener, renewable energy sources like biofuels, electric planes, or solar-powered planes, carbon offsetting is a small step you can make towards a more sustainable future for yourself, and the world around you. 

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Any representations, views or opinions contained in this article are those of The Latch and do not reflect those of and are not endorsed by Suncorp Bank.