Trans-continental flights implies adventures to new places and foreign experiences. The magic and allure of these destinations makes anyone with the travel-bug want to jump on the next package deal that comes to our email inbox. It is hard to deny that in our overly social-sharing world, the feeling of FOMO is rampant with the exotic and cultural destinations that are craftily curated on our screens.
For me personally, I travel, A LOT. With my roots in one part of the country, a family business developing on another continent, and scratching my own itch for global sight-seeing, it has been a wonderful journey in decorating my passport. Thankfully, a large portion of my environmental awareness is to thank for found perspectives of global systems, but still, this leisurely education also comes with a price. Anything we do or consume as humans contributes to our “carbon footprint,” and for those who are still new to the climate change conquest, this basically means how our actions are negatively impacting the atmosphere and planet’s health.
A recent study done by Swedish researchers states that taking one trans-continental flight a year is one of the worst contributors towards an individual’s carbon emissions. No-bueno for visiting our favorite Instagrammable places or hopping on a last-minute flight to the beach because you “literally can’t even.” On par with living car free, eating a plant-based diet, and having one-fewer child, taking that round-trip flight is just a one-time experience, while the other contributors are huge lifestyle adjustments. So, this got me thinking – what actions can I do today that helps ramp up my transitional “going-green” agenda, but at the same time not be a drastic shift in my daily life?
The answer – TREES.
Obviously, trees are Mothers Nature’s way of keeping our planet clean and healthy, as well as provide biodiverse ecosystems and sustain local economies. We owe it to these living green-machines for turning the carbon dioxide in the air into the vital oxygen we breathe. But, at the current rate of commercial deforestation, wildfires, and humans contribution to CO2 in the atmosphere, the natural carbon cycle is becoming overwhelmed and putting our planet at risk. The idea of getting more trees in the ground to balance out my travelling agenda, seems like a win-win to me, and for everyone.
So, I did the math. Thanks to the carbon-calculator Terrapass, I learned that my latest roundtrip flight adds to my carbon footprint of about 9,900 lbs of CO2. Thats equivalent to almost 5 TONS of carbon dioxide (1 ton = ~2000lbs) And to offset that, I would need to plant around 115 trees for them to grow and make sure they thrive- sustainably and strong. (Sidenote: Can you do the math of how many people on a flight, and how many flights a day, happening all over the world all the time, and how many trees that would need planting to offset all the carbon emissions? My head and heart already hurt!) Unfortunately I don’t have the resources personally to achieve such a feat, so I turn to the internet to find me some answers of how to offset my jet-setting ventures.
Surf the net and plant some trees!
Ecosia.org – Yep thats right! Step aside Google. This search platform plants a tree for EVERY search performed. Made possible by paid advertisements in the search results, the website tallies how many searches you’ve made and partners with tree-planting organizations all over the world to make you feel like you’re doing-good with a click of the button. I have already set mine to my “Homepage” screen, as well as put in frequented sites like Amazon or Netflix into the search bar just to boost tree numbers. So simple, so genius!
Purchasing Carbon Offsets through my flight carrier.
United Airlines – This airline is usually my airline of choice, mostly due to its hub in my city as well as frequenting the South American flights I need to do my business. Luckily, I learned United has a Carbon-Offset incentive and you can purchase carbon credits through them! What isn’t convenient or clear however, is the fact you aren’t able to purchase these offsets during the booking process, you have to go back and input your flight details on their sustainability site, and not all the airports/flights they service are represented there. The charities they work with are legit, however considering airline travel is the big heavy-hitter for carbon emissions, United and other carriers should be more on the forefront of getting consumers or shareholders responsible.
Delta & JetBlue are other carriers that sell carbon offsets through their websites, good to look into purchasing tickets via these airlines if they have hubs in your area. Also, we should be more insistent to other carriers and consumer-pressure these airlines to get on board with carbon offsets or quickly fasten their climate-change seatbelts.
Tree Planting Donation & Subscription Services
Subscription boxes are all the rage these days: pay a monthly fee and get some goodies delivered straight to your door. But what if instead of contributing to wasteful shipping and consumer packaged products, there was the option to use your money to negate all our nasty spending and travel habits? Well there are alternatives to that, as well as notable charities to donate to and get a stamp of approval from our dear planet.
Eden Projects (True Village) – Every $40 plants 120 trees that sustains both land lives. With programs in Nepal, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Haiti, this organization focuses on not only restoring trees and forests in devastated areas, but also empowering citizens with jobs and contributing to local economies. Again, another win-win for everyone!
TreeEra Co. – This company has risen quickly to the scene, planting trees in Canada and working with local programs to restore old growth forests affected by the recent forest fires. Any contribution to their subscription services plants a given amount of trees, but they also can outfit you in do-gooder shwag with patches and bracelets so you can show the world you give a shit. They are currently are crowd-sourcing for their next big project – check it out!
Stand For the Trees – This organization not only lets you purchase trees for them to plant, but they also give you the option of taking action and protecting forests in need. Their purchase options are in “$ per ton” – so it makes it easy to know how much of your donation money is needed for off-sets, as well as lets you choose how and where it goes in their projects all over the world. Take a stand and plant a tree! Purchasing from this organization also makes for a great gift, showing loved ones you care about them by contributing to protecting a forest in their name.
These findings are just a sliver of options and organizations out there! Luckily thanks to Ecosia.org – I was able to search for everything all while planting trees at the same time! I highly suggest you download it as your main homepage, regardless of how much time you spend in the air. We all contribute to carbon emissions everyday somehow, and face it we’re on our computers (as you are reading this…) more than we would like to admit so at least now you can search for whatever viral cat video is all the rage and plant a tree at the same time.
So I decided, through my searches, I am going to invest in the tree donation/subscription services Stand For Trees, Tree Era Co, and the Eden Projects because I want to see which one of the processes have the best follow through, efficiency, and transparency. I probably will not support United’s EcoSkies program, as it is too expensive and not thorough enough for where my money is going. However, I will still continue to fly with them, since they are one of the more progressive airlines out there experimenting with biofuels and in-flight waste reductions. I am also going to write them a letter asking and encouraging them to have a more clear carbon offset program available during the booking process. Stay tuned! I smell a Congress petition coming on too…
We as traveling consumers must make the effort to clean up our act. Luckily, these actions not only clear our carbon-emitting consciouses, but also pay it forward by supporting global organizations, forests, and economies. I hope you join me in supporting travel emission offsetting, perhaps reaching out to airlines about how they should fly more sustainable, and encouraging others in your life to do the same as well.
Cheers and happy travels!!