"I’ll offset my flight in the form of organic waste composting, thank you." -- Its 9PM at the San Diego International Airport and I’m waiting for my redeye flight to Miami to begin boarding. A sucker for good design, my eye is drawn to a logo with the words “good traveler” in large, friendly font. A green leaf sits in harmony next to a suitcase, signifying the newest way to be green while blasting across the country by the seat of our pants via jetfuel.
After some research, I find that its my tech startup dream: a company partnered with airports that allow you to “offset” your flight’s carbon footprint by paying a contribution to tree planting, wetland restoration, or clean energy projects. As of August 2018, they boast over 124 million miles of flights and 46 million pounds of carbon dioxide removed.
The Good Traveler’s goals are very on par with the younger generations’ cultural shift towards sustainability and decreasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere to slow the pace of climate change. It couldn’t come at a better time; emissions from air travel are racking up along with frequent-flyer miles. And, with a low price point of only $2-7 per trip, it is easily accessibly to nearly every airline traveler.
Jetfuel and the Jetstream
With global advancements in technology and major airline price-slashing tactics, air travel is one of the fastest-growing sources of global greenhouse gas emissions. As consumers, many of us modern jet-setters are facing an internal guilt trip every time we board a plane.
America’s younger generations were raised to understand the long-term effects of pollution on our cities. As children, we may have enthusiastically turned off lights after we left the room to conserve energy, or helped plant a few trees in the playground on Earth Day. We rode the wave of recycling brought about by the environmental movement of the 1970s and believed we understood what it meant to be “earth-friendly”.
Even if you can’t identify with any of the sentiments above, you are likely conscious of the many human impacts on the environment. You might cringe when you inhale a fog of diesel from a large truck or see a passerby toss out a Styrofoam container. To inwardly reflect on our own impact from the inside of our own car can be just as cringe-worthy, if not more so.
We see it, we feel the cringe, and yet…We must continue to live our lives, right?
Yes. As a scholar of climate science and conservation, I understand the importance of lessening the pressure put on Earth. However, as someone who has lived in three different corners of the United States, the carbon footprint I accumulate from traveling alone is probably enough to be spread around a small village in Bhutan.
According to the New York Times, one trip from coast to coast can generate about 20 percent of emissions from your car for an entire year.
Until we can cross the Atlantic on solar paneled planes fueled by vegetables, the simple truth remains: the tons of carbon that air travel emits is staggering, destabilizing the very atmosphere that sustains it.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.
Release and Catch
The Good Traveler is here to help! Based upon a “leave no trace” philosophy, their mantra is “Your plane releases carbon. We put it back.”
Before you start planning all future travel via cargo ship, follow the steps below to learn how Good Traveler attempts to help you take responsibility.
How to Use Carbon Offsets with The Good Traveler
Use The Good Traveler’s website to calculate the carbon impact of your
flight. Type in your destination, and the site will calculate your mileage and the associated pounds of carbon dioxide. Yes, that’s right. Its odd to think of gases in pounds, isn’t it? I bet our atmosphere isn’t surprised.
Buy the offset. Your calculated mileage will suggest a dollar amount needed
for you to offset your trip, typically around $2 for domestic flights and $7 for
international. Around the price for a bottle of water at the airport, nice!
Choose which project you want your money to support. Would you like to
support a local project, like the Cedar Grove Organic Waste Composting project in Everett, WA, or something international, like efforts to make global marine transport more eco-friendly? All projects are certified as an offset standard like the American Carbon Registry.
Six dollars and one happy mass of composting microbes in the works, my
2,257 miles of air travel and the 350 pounds of CO 2 it will produce are theoretically captured away in the contribution I have made to this effort.
Carbon Offsets: A Promise or a Delay?
Carbon offsets for personal use is new territory for many. Interestingly, the
purchasing of carbon offsets is not new. Developed countries have been doing this on an international level since the early 2000s, when high-level carbon emitters like the United States paying for a smattering of windmill projects in developing countries like Brazil and China.
Domestically, no such effort to do so has been made until 2016, with a grandioseagreement International Civil Aviation Organization modeled in much the same way as The Good Traveler. The jury’s out on the effectiveness of either measure, but at least an attempt at action has been made.
Which is to say, I am taking heart in this new startup.
The purchasing of carbon credits, while not a golden ticket to reverse climate change, allows us to become more aware of our actions and provides a way to claim responsibility for our impact on the Earth.