Holiday Travel and Offsets

By Jennifer Roberts

Guest blog from our Path to Positive partner in L.A., Jonathan Parfrey, with Climate Resolve:

In September, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, sailed across the Atlantic to attend the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. She didn’t take an airplane — which happens to be the most carbon-intensive thing regular people do. Instead, Greta used wind-power.

I sincerely hope Greta’s example will lead Americans to consider the effects of their travel.

During the holidays, either you or a family member is likely to board an airplane. You’re not Greta Thunberg yet — so what’s the moral thing to do?

I buy offsets in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.

A typical offset for someone traveling from New York to LA in coach is about $35.

For my family’s offsets I use CoolEffect — and specifically purchase offsets from the Southern Ute tribe in Colorado where they capture natural seeps of methane and then use the methane for energy. The Southern Ute offset happens to be 70% more expensive than other projects (at $13 per ton) but I spend extra because I prefer to support Native American projects.

And I buy 5x our family’s total annual GHG footprint because so many other Americans aren’t buying offsets at all.

(For an alternative holiday gift, consider a gift to a climate non-profit (such as Climate Resolve or ecoAmerica, ) or offsetting a loved one’s annual carbon footprint. CoolEffect makes the calculation easy, and supplies a certificate which can be gifted with holiday cheer. Editor’s Note:  ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow program works with Cool Effect and houses of faith on carbon offsets here.)

Offsets aren’t perfect. Ideally, we should stem all greenhouse gas emissions at the source.

Yet in a world where families still gather for Thanksgiving and planes don’t yet run on french fry grease, where trains don’t always take you where you need to go, and where we still turn up the heat on cold nights, the second best option is offsets.

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