Carbon Offsets For Flying

September 4, 2017

photo by Henrik Prüzelius


If you’ve read the About Me page you know I love two things: conserving resources and traveling. Unfortunately, the high carbon impact of air travel can make the two hard to reconcile. However, options do exist, and they are getting better and better due to pressure from environmental groups.

According to Peter Miller, senior scientist with the Energy & Transportation Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “early offset programs generally erred on the side of being too flexible and not standardized.” However, in the past few years things have changed. Airlines have begun to partner with environmental groups to offer worthwhile carbon offset programs that have been shown to make a difference. And if, like me, you thought it would be prohibitively expensive to offset your carbon footprint when you fly, think again. I recently purchased carbon offsets for two people to fly from New York to Idaho for just over $25.

photo by Stefan Hofecker Photography

Although air travel emissions only account for about five percent of global warming right now, that number is expected to rise significantly since the volume of air travel has been steadily increasing and flight fuel efficiency has not kept pace.


Delta Airlines, the first U.S.airline to offer carbon offsets, has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to offer its customers the option to make donations to one of three Nature Conservancy projects; the Clinch Valley Conservation Forestry Program in Virginia, the Rio Bravo Climate Action Project in Belize or the Valdivian Coastal Reserve Project in Chile. On Delta’s website you will find a carbon calculator as well as links to these programs for donating either dollars or miles.

United Airlines has two programs to which you can donate: Sustainable Travel International’s Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm in Texas or Conservation International’s Alto Mayo Forest Carbon Project in Northern Peru. Like Delta they have an online carbon calculator to help you out and they accept dollars as well as miles.

photo by Virgil Telmo

As Geoffrey Heal, professor of Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School, recently stated in a Smithsonian article by Natasha Geiling, “If you’re a traveler and you’re greenhouse gas conscious, then this is a legitimate way of creating an offset. There’s nothing bogus about it. It makes sense. It works.”




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