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May 23, 2018  |  Login

Purchase Carbon Offsets when Flying

Purchasing carbon offsets when flying can help to reduce the environmental impact of air travel.

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Purchasing carbon offsets can be a great way of repaying the environment for the environmental costs of flying.  Air travel, while an often-necessary mode of transportation, releases massive amounts of CO2 and other dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

One way of reducing these harmful effects is to buy a carbon offset. The organization that you buy from will use your money to invest in renewable energy or sustainable development, plant trees or install energy-efficient light bulbs.  Choosing from the array of groups that offer carbon offsets, however, can be confusing.  Offsets cost different amounts depending on what the organizations include in their emissions calculators.  In an attempt to standardize the way carbon offsets are calculated, the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) launched its own carbon calculator in June, 2008; unfortunately, it only takes into account carbon dioxide and ignores other harmful greenhouse gases that airplanes emit. While the ICAO would like its calculator to become the standard, other organizations offer calculators that do account for these additional gases.

Keep in mind that a carbon offset does not simply negate the emissions that you are responsible for when you fly. While offsets are certainly a great way to help the environment, there is much controversy over their actual effectiveness. Also, many of the investments that carbon offsets are converted into only pay out in the future: An investment in planting trees will not pay off until the trees mature and begin to absorb CO2 at high levels, and an investment in wind energy only means that a turbine will be built eventually. Still, these kinds of investment in our energy future are extremely valuable, and are the next-best thing to not flying at all.


Take Action / Next Steps
  • You can purchase carbon offsets while purchasing your ticket through many airlines. Check out Continental Airlines’ new carbon offsetting program as just one example.
  • Learn about carbon offsetting organizations and compare their advantages and disadvantages before making a decision about where to invest.


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Did You Know?

Click below for more facts about this tip.



1. Reuters. [5 June 2008] U.N. Agency Launches Airline Carbon Offset Standard. Available from: Type=RSS&feedName=environmentNews&pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0 [19 June 2008]

2. [8 June 2007] Carbon Offset Guide. Available from: [19 June 2008]

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