Jetsetting, not so jiggy

By Catherine Thompson

The holiday season has come and gone and with it came the peak travelling season. That’s right, it’s the joyously frantic times in which you book well in advance (say, at least a full year) and wear a tropical weather appropriate outfit underneath your layers of Canadian winter apparel (you’ll never forgot that trusty Boy Scout motto of always be prepared.)  But the truth about globetrotting is that whether you’re jet setting to Bali, cruising the Camden Lock Market in London or wandering the Toyko streets, air travel is crap for the environment.

Nothing is a bigger middle finger to Mother Nature quite like a mammoth, 300,000 litre-fueled Airbus A380 debarking on 21 hour flight. Don’t just take my word for it, the folks at the David Suzuki Foundation aren’t exactly singing high praises of the air travel industry, noting that “[air travel] presently accounts for 4-9% of the total climate change impact of human activity.”

Sure, if you’re resourceful (and in mighty good shape) you can travel without flying, transforming a mere eight hour flight into a 40 day walking journey (think of the all the tone your calves would have!) For those of us with less inclination to travel by foot, this is where carbon offset credits come in. So if you can’t handle the environmental guilt of your around-the-world emissions-heavy experience or you’re looking to be eco without sacrificing that European tour, carbon offset credits may be your new best friend.

Carbon offset credits are essentially environmental currency that is invested into sustainable projects, either on a local or international scale. Projects can range from tree planting and wind farming to wildlife conservation. Purchasing carbon offset credits is not limited to those with wanderlust, those that simply want to “offset” their day to day lifestyles can purchase credits as well.

At Air Canada (and many other air carriers,) carbon offset credits can be purchased alongside a plane ticket. You can take your pick among three Canadian environmental projects: a forest restoration in Maple Ridge (talk about being local!), a landfill gas recovery project in Niagara Falls or a tire recycling project in Quebec. If you’re more like a kid in the candy shop and simply can’t simply choose one, calm that spastic tantrum! You can divide your credits amongst all three projects.

The process is simple enough: an online calculator will estimate the amount of carbon dioxide your flight will emit and then the price is adjusted accordingly. A quick jet to Hawaii that produces 0.922 tonnes of CO2? That’ll be $15.35, please. A trip down under with a whopping 2.489 tonnes of CO2 will come to a total of $41.47.

If you’re flying foreign or with an air carrier that isn’t in partnership with a carbon offset company, UNIGLOBE’s “Green My Flight” allows you to calculate your emissions and purchase carbon offset credits from their website.

Just be wary of greedy, money leeching companies that promise to save those precious  polar bears, rejuvenate the Great Barrier Reef and suck every last drop of BP’s big oil blunder from the Gulf of Mexico all for the astronomical price of $5,000. That may be just the slightest bit over ambitious and perhaps not with the best of intentions for your hard earned cash.

So next holiday season, as you cram your way into crowded coach and munch on freeze dried snacks, consider leaving a contrail of carbon offset credits, not carbon. You may just make it on Mother Nature’s good side.

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