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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Green Travel: Carbon Offsets

by Susan Melgren, Web Editor

Tags: green traveler, carbon offsets, flying,

Seeing the world and protecting the environment don’t exactly go hand in hand. The farther from home you travel, the more fuel and energy you burn and the greater the carbon footprint is that you leave behind. 

Because they emit less carbon dioxide per passenger, train and bus travel is generally seen as being more environmentally friendly than flying or driving. But trains and buses don’t go everywhere you need to – or as fast as you need them to – and sometimes that cross-country or international flight is your only option. 

Plane photo
Concerned about air pollution from flying? Some airline companies offer carbon offsets. Photo By Martynr/Courtesy Flickr 

Don’t be disheartened. Traveling by plane doesn’t mean you can’t help the environment. If you can’t reduce your pollution, at least you can make up for it. 

Although there’s no way to reduce your plane’s carbon emissions, some airlines and travel companies offer offsets, or donations to projects that produce energy without burning fossil fuels or emitting greenhouse gases. In other words, the donation to the project is supposed to “offset” the greenhouse gases the plane will emit. The best part? It doesn’t cost that much. 

Expedia offers its customers the opportunity to buy carbon offsets through TerraPass, which funds wind farms, landfill gas capture and farm power. A round-trip flight of up to 2,200 miles costs travelers only $5.99 to offset 1,000 pounds of CO2. A cross country flight of 6,500 costs $16.99, and offsets for an international flight (up to 13,000 miles) cost $29.99. 

Expedia isn’t the only company partnering up for a greener globe. Orbitz offers its travelers offsets through Offsets for a 6,000-mile trip through costs about $11.50, and offsets for an international flight of 20,000 miles costs about $38. 

Is this just a way to make amends for feeling guilty about flying? Maybe. But if you can’t avoid flying, buying offsets certainly can’t hurt. 

What do you think about carbon offsets? Have you or would you ever purchase them, and why? Leave a comment to discuss.