The Price of Air Travel


Would you like to enjoy your holiday travel with a side of environmental guilt? Ho ho oh no.

We all know flying is bad for the environment. Almost every form of travel emits some emissions, but flying is, unfortunately, the worst. It’s also too often the only feasible way to get somewhere. (The Hogwarts Express has a shockingly limited service route.) Since not traveling is not an option for a lot of us, we have to look for other ways to lessen our impact. Buying carbon offsets can be a good option.

Buying carbon offsets is basically investing in projects that reduce carbon emissions. What’s interesting about carbon offsets these days is that they’re not just wind farms and solar panels anymore. There are all sorts of ways to reduce emissions, so you can tailor your offset purchases to your interests. For instance, many of the projects are for clean cookstoves, which have been a global health priority for years. In some developing countries, people still cook over wood-burning stoves, often inside their homes (picture having a campfire in the middle of your kitchen). The smoke causes a lot of health problems, and it also creates a lot of pollution. Clean cookstoves improve health and the environment: a win-win. At this tidy intersection of global health and sustainability, I’ll be making my year-end philanthropic donation.

To get on board the offset train, start by calculating the emissions from your flights (Atmosfair has a good calculator). Then look for reputable programs that have been verified by third parties and that are transparent about what they do. Companies like Gold Standard and Cool Effect are a good place to start.

There’s a reasonable amount of skepticism about whether carbon offsets actually work, but that doesn’t mean they should be dismissed completely. Even if offsets aren’t exactly cancelling out the carbon from our travels, they’re still making a small difference somewhere, and small differences add up.

Since it’s not possible to travel by portkey or apparition, we have to make peace with – and, where possible, mitigate – the impact of our travels.

And now, I’m off to the airport. Happy travels and happy holidays to all.


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