Carbon offsetting strategy

We are two people deeply committed to tackling climate change (on both individual and societal scales). And yet we have family in both the UK and New Zealand so sometimes find flying unavoidable. Here is the strategy we have developed to ensure that given these circumstances we contribute more to mitigating climate change than to worsening it.

1. Avoid flying where at all possible

    • When based in the UK, we don’t fly within Europe; we take the train or coach, using seat61.com (to investigate options) and loco2.com (to book).
    • When based in New Zealand, we don’t fly within NZ; we take the train, coach or car.
    • Here’s why: as an example, for both of us to travel from Auckland to Wellington we would emit 284kg co2 by plane, or 130kg co2 by car i.e. by plane we emit 2.2x as much as travelling by car.

2. Optimise the flights you do take

    • We avoid short haul flights (up to 800km) completely, whether in isolation or as a leg of a longer journey – the efficiency (co2 per passenger per km) is much worse, and there are usually alternative travel methods available.
    • It is now possible to choose air companies with lower emissions, ranked here: https://www.atmosfair.de/en/air_travel_and_climate/atmosfair_airline_index/  so we factor this into our decision-making process when booking flights.
    • When flight changes are necessary (as they are between the UK and NZ!), we make the most of it and stay for a few days, factoring this into the trip. It’s more expensive, but not compared to arranging a completely separate trip.

3. Calculate your offset using a rigorous and transparent carbon calculator

    • We use www.atmosfair.de/en – after comparing different calculators we found this one to be the most rigorous and transparent in its approach and calculations. They provide good information and take a precautionary approach by applying a large radiative forcing multiplier  – a source of much uncertainty and underestimation of climate impacts in many other calculators.
    • We then multiply that figure by 1.5x (thereby donating 150% of what is recommended by atmosfair). We want to ensure we pay well over what economists think the real price of carbon should be (the ‘social cost of carbon’; currently around £30-50 per tonne).

4. Donate your money – To decide where, we use the following principles:

    • Contribute to projects in both developed and developing countries – investing money in developing countries often give the best value carbon reductions and it offers communities social benefits too. But it would feel strange not to invest in projects in developed countries as well – where emissions per capita are much higher.
    • Proactively investigate the initiatives you donate to e.g. contacting them, visiting them, blogging and talking about them. For example, see www.seekthechange.org. We want to be sure that the money we are giving is genuinely having an impact, so we want to keep track of the organisations we donate to over the long term (many years) and ask them challenging questions, adapting our approach as necessary.
    • Include projects that directly and indirectly result in emissions reductions e.g.
      • Direct: gold standard certified, accounted-for renewable energy and tree planting projects (we are using atmosfair’s website to most easily find these at the moment).
      • Indirect: projects that have the potential to create even greater impact such as education and empowerment, or new technologies. For example, we supported a crowdfunding campaign in Dec 2016 for Voyage-Vert, a start-up aiming to make sailing an alternative for long-distance travel.

5. Engage others in conversation about travel, offsetting and difficult compromises

…hence this blog post. Please share and give us your feedback! Email: emily[@]seekthechange.org

 

NB We acknowledge that all the strategies above except point 5 require having extra money available to commit to these things. For us, they do not add too much difficulty compared to where we were already at i.e. we are used to saving up a lot of our money for our ‘next big trip’ so for us it’s just about allocating some of that money as above. To save in this way, we tend to prioritise saving for travels over spending on certain other things e.g. we buy most of our clothes from charity shops, we don’t own a car, we eat very little meat, we don’t drink alcohol that often, we buy more experiences than expensive gifts for family and friends – all of which fit in with our daily lifestyle and identity. And when we do travel, we tend to go backpacking and choose less expensive accommodation, which means we can stretch budgets further.

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