Today is the second day of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit, a two-day portion of the 74th U.N. General Assembly. In Manhattan, the world’s leaders are discussing how they will work to complete the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. And so in the spirit of helping the planet, we’d like to help answer a question: How can the average commercial flyer lessen his or her impact on the environment?
How does flying affect the environment?
Flying is “one of the worst things an individual can do for the climate” in the words of The New York Times. That’s because planes emit carbon dioxide, which traps heat in the atmosphere, when they burn fossil fuel. And with more people flying every year, the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted by planes is rising. In fact, the International Council on Clean Transportation calculated that the rise in plane-emitted carbon dioxide “over the past five years was equivalent to building about 50 coal-fired power plants.” According to The Guardian, the aviation sector is currently responsible for “2% of global emissions but that figure could more than double by 2050.”
If you can avoid flying, you’ll therefore lessen your footprint. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t fly. If you have a week to see Japan, for example, you’re going to have to fly there. And that’s okay. For starters, new aircraft from the likes or Airbus and Boeing are consistently more fuel-efficient than their predecessors have been. Virgin Atlantic’s new A350-1000s, for example, are 30% more efficient than the planes they’re replacing. Airlines and governing bodies are investing in and testing alternatives to fossil fuels like hydrogen, recycled-waste-as-fuel and better batteries. On a smaller scale, flying non-stop and in economy class can also lessen your carbon footprint. And almost all major commercial airlines (and even private operators like Victor) offer you as a passenger a chance to offset your carbon emissions, if you’re willing to pay a few bucks for it.
How to offset your carbon emissions
In the words of the Times, “carbon offsets compensate for your emissions by canceling out greenhouse gas emissions somewhere else in the world. The money you pay to buy offsets supports programs designed to reduce emissions. Those might include projects to develop renewable energy, capture methane from landfills or livestock, or distribute cleaner cooking stoves.”
In general, a carbon offset won’t cost you much, between maybe $3 and $20 for a flight from New York to Los Angeles in economy. The cost varies because “there is no fixed price on carbon, and the cost of an offset varies from project to project, depending on how expensive it is to run a given program,” Sarah Leugers, director of communications at Gold Standard (see below), told the Times.
When you book directly with an airline, you’ll often be given the option to pay to offset your carbon emissions by simply checking a box. The amount will have been calculated by the airline and partnering organizations (like Alaska Airlines and JetBlue with Carbonfund.org), and often, but not always, you’ll be able to see what projects the airline will support with your money. This is the simplest option and a place to start. A quick guide to some of the major airline carbon offset programs can be found here.
Not every airline offers a checkbox option, however. And beyond that, “not all carbon offset programs are created equal,” the Times says, “as made evident in a recent investigation of forestry projects by ProPublica.” If you want to be diligent about seeing your money put to work, or offset more than an airline allows, you can calculate your carbon footprint yourself using the tools below and then pay the indicated amount (or more) to an organization that you like. Here are three tools that you can use to calculate the carbon footprint of a flight (notice that the results are not the same):
Next, you’ll need to direct your money to a project that will effectively offset your carbon emissions. The Times suggests looking “for certifications by rigorous third-party auditors like The Gold Standard or Green-e.” Gold Standard in particular is easy to use. On this page, you can see and sort through its available projects. Right now, for example, you can help supply refugees in Chad with solar cookers and a solar project in Rajasthan, India. If you can’t decide, you can choose to donate to its Climate+ Portfolio. You select how many tons (“tonnes,” so metric tons) of carbon you’d like to offset, pay via the secure portal, and let Gold Standard “distribute your contribution over a range of certified projects.”
You can support good projects like Gold Standard’s without flying. With or without a flight booked, putting money into sustainability-minded projects will do the world (and your conscience) good.
Want even more travel tips? Sign up here for the Daily Travel Tip newsletter! Enter your email address and check “Daily Travel Tip” to receive Johnny’s best tips in your inbox each day!
If you already subscribe to our weekly newsletter, you can sign up on the same page. Just fill in your email and check “Daily Travel Tip” on the same page. You’ll receive an email with a link to update your JohnnyJet.com preferences. On that page, just click the Daily Travel Tip box and Update Profile.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered. Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.