Our Flights of Fancy: Carbon offsets
Many Canadians fly south in winter to bask in warmth, avoid Canada’s winters of snow, ice, sleet, and plunging temperatures. Others among us embrace winter and fly to destinations offering downhill skiing in powder snow.
If we can afford to fly, the world’s our oyster.
However, many travellers are also deeply concerned about environmental issues.
Let’s take me as an example. I’m heading off to the UK soon, to visit my and my husband Eric’s family. If I don’t fly, I as an immigrant won’t see my family who are dispersed about the planet. Some live in England, others in New Zealand, Australia, California, British Columbia, and Alberta.
What can we two honestly do to help defray emissions? Our flights release 4,182 tonnes of CO2 emissions into Earth’s atmosphere during our return direct flights from Ottawa to London, England?
Booking the flight
First, we’ve already done something. We booked a direct flight not only for convenience over connecting ones (which sometimes can be less monetarily expensive). Environmentally, direct flights are a superior choice because fewer emissions are being released than connecting flights, because so much fuel is burned on take-off.
Second, buy carbon offsets. Eric and I purchased these at a cost of $140.51 ($133.82 prior to taxes). It’s easy to purchase them at time of booking, on the Air Canada site.
What are carbon offsets?
The David Suzuki Organization’s website explains, “A carbon offset is a credit for greenhouse gas reductions achieved by one party that can be purchased and used to compensate (offset) the emissions of another party. Carbon offsets are typically measured in tonnes of CO2-equivalents (or CO2e) and are bought and sold through a number of international brokers, online retailers and trading platforms.” (bit.ly/2mwvceY)
Gold Standard-Certified International Offsets
We purchased Gold Standard-Certified International Offsets at the Air Canada website, upon booking our flights.
(The option to purchase Carbon Offsets appears every time one books a ticket.)
The World Wildlife Fund website explains what these are: “The Gold Standard, supported by WWF, is the most rigorous certification standard globally for carbon offset projects. It ensures that energy efficiency and renewable energy projects actually reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and provide benefits to the local population.” (bit.ly/2H5MEkv)
In 2003, WWF and other international NGOs created the Gold Standard so that consumers could rely upon a system of carbon offsets where their hard-earned money would truly go to worthy projects.
WWF’s site further states, “The Gold Standard ensures that energy efficiency and renewable energy projects actually reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and provide benefits to the local population. Such benefits include positive impacts on the well-being of the community hosting the project.”
To research more about Gold Standard, check their website: goldstandard.org/
Sample Gold Standard Offset projects
Examples include an Eastern Ugandan chlorine dispenser project where rural communities here are supplied with safe drinking water. Another is a Hakhon biogas wastewater treatment plant in Thailand. Methane is captured from wastewater produced by a Thai starch plant, where methane generates renewable electricity for the facility.
There are many, many worthwhile projects funded by yours and my money when we choose carbon offsets.
Environmental decisions are ours to make
Most of us seek the least expensive flights for our holidays and business trips. Many argue that spending more on offsets is something they’re unwilling to do.
However, let’s look at that paradigm. If we’re flying for business (ie to make more money for ourselves or our employer) or for vacation time, we are spending thousands of tonnes of emissions. Can we afford not to be offsetting our emissions?
Interested in another story on this topic? Read Wired magazine’s article at bit.ly/2S70tQz
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her at email@example.com and view her art at facebook.com/KatharineFletcherArtist/