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Travel Carbon Offsets - What You Need to Know

None of us wants our travel to harm the planet, right? Yet, each time we hop on a plane and jet off to an exciting destination, how many of us really understand the impact that action has on the environment?

Or more importantly, what we can do to change the impact from negative to neutral … or even positive?

Did You Know?

Between 1995 and 2019, international travel doubled, reaching 1.4 BILLION international arrivals in 2019. It’s no wonder that (pre-pandemic) tourism was responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with flights generating a substantial portion of those emissions.

Consider this ... In 70 countries around the world, the average person produces less CO2 in a year than the amount of CO2 generated by a single round-trip flight between Los Angeles and Paris.

So should we stop traveling altogether?

Definitely not! If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the benefits of travel can far outweigh the drawbacks … as long as we return to travel in a more conscious way.

What can we do?

First, reduce carbon emissions in general. Then, offset what we can’t reduce.

Carbon Offsetting 101

The goal of carbon offsetting is to achieve a net zero carbon footprint by supporting reputable projects that either remove existing carbon from the atmosphere or prevent emissions from happening in the first place.

How to Offset

1. Calculate Your Footprint

First, calculate your carbon footprint. NOTE: It can be challenging to calculate emissions accurately for many aspects of your trip, such as meals, accommodations, and ground transportation. To simplify matters, focus on your flight, since it will generate the largest portion of your carbon footprint. is a straightforward site where you can determine the distance of your flight. Remember to double the distance for round trips.

2. Purchase Offset Credits

This is where it gets a bit tricky. You want to make sure your purchase supports projects that actually do good work, right?

Thankfully, several third-party organizations have taken on verifying, validating, and certifying various projects around the globe.

The following links will take you to sites where you can find and purchase credits with reputable carbon offset projects:

When carbon offset projects work well, they also provide additional benefits, like:

  • Protection of natural resources

  • Endangered species conservation

  • Local job creation

  • Protection of livelihoods and land rights

  • Improved hygiene, health and education

  • Affordable energy

Hopefully, armed with this information, you will find it easier to incorporate carbon offsetting into your future travel plans.

NOTE: Much of the information in this post mirrors the information presented by Sustainable Travel for Impact Travel Alliance in April 2021. Much appreciation to both organizations for their commitment to education around sustainable travel. To delve deeper into carbon offsets, please check out the video replay of the presentation.


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