OFFSETTING MY CARBON FOOTPRINT WHEN I TRAVEL BY PLANE

On a daily basis you pay attention to your carbon footprint, you consume locally and you favour the bike.

But sometimes to head off and explore the world you don't have any other option than catching a flight. Now you know that this ruins your carbon footprint and the effort you go to in your everyday life, would you like to find a way to limit it? 

Why seek to limit or offset your carbon footprint when travelling? Simply because if you want to continue to travelling, you need to protect the natural resources and spaces of our planet. And it is would be a shame for a simple plane journey to wipe out the efforts that you are making on a daily basis. 

empreinte carbone tour du monde

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Of course the ideal would be to avoid having a carbon footprint, the ADEME's (French Environment and Energy Management Agency) recommendation concerning CO2 is, of course to limit it before considering offsetting it. So you may ask yourself if you need to travel far away or find a different transport method than the plane. An idea to limit your footprint when you travel by plane is to get rid of stops. It is true that it is often more expensive, but taking off and landing are the times that use the most fuel in your journey. Another good excuse to take a direct flight! Some airlines offer, when you buy your ticket, to transfer a sum of money to offset, in part, the impact of your journey. Depending on the companies the process is more or less transparent.  

compenser son empreinte carbone pendant un voyage

HOW DOES CARBON FOOTPRINT OFFSETTING WORK? 

To offset it you need to start by estimating your journey's CO2 consumption. The majority of sites offering to offset your carbon footprint include a CO2 calculator. The way these calculators work and the result quantified in Euros that they provide vary depending on the platforms.

Greentripper.org, a Belgian website that only works with projects certified by the Ethibel Forum: "an independent organisation, internationally recognised, designated and checked by the Gold Standard and by the UN", also offers to offset radiative forcing. This factor is added to the CO2 calculation which now essentially concerns the plane's consumption of kerosene. As travelling by plane has complex consequences which are not limited to burning fuel.

The CO2 consumption calculation for a flight is still complicated to carry out today and there is, of course, a variation depending on the type of plane, how full it is and its age. 

What is radiative forcing?

I tried to find a simple way to explain it and I decided to send you to Wikipedia to avoid incorrect shortcuts and approximations. Here is the first line explaining radiative forcing as it is defined by the GIEC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): "Radiative forcing measures the impact of certain factors effecting the climate in terms of the energy balance of the Earth-atmosphere interlinked system". I encourage you to follow the link below to go into more detail.  

calculate my carbon print when i travel

WHAT AM I PAYING FOR EXACTLY?

One of the quite common received ideas on offsetting carbon footprints is that the money is used to plant trees. Some projects do indeed do this. But in reality, lots of projects are focused on helping to develop sustainable energy sources, sustainable agriculture, protecting biodiversity, etc. all over the world. Protecting the environment sometimes also involves helping people to access technologies allowing them to reduce their impact. Specifically, there are an increasing amount of organisations which offer offsetting systems. Neither Forclaz or myself have a link with these different platforms, the idea is just to offer you some sites in French to make your life easier if you want to get into this measure.

The site supported by ADEME is the following

In Belgium you will find Greentripper which works with the airlines

In France the most well-known is the one from the Good Planet association created by Yann Arthus Bertrand 

Before exploring the subject, on a personal basis I asked myself the purpose of offsetting my carbon footprint which seemed very limited, or even counterproductive as I saw it as an excuse to continue to pollute even more: I'm offsetting so I am virtuous. Now I see it as an approach which is part of a wider desire to reduce my impact on a daily basis: firstly I reduce and then I offset what I cannot avoid. 

SUMMARY

1- I try to limit my carbon footprint (travelling less far, taking the train, etc.)

2- I calculate what I cannot limit

3- I offset for want of a better alternative

Clothilde Forclaz editor

CLOTHILDE

Responsible user & editor at Forclaz

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