We’re really excited to have Jacqui back with us again this week to talk about going carbon neutral and tips on how to offset your carbon footprint.
All these tips come from a non-judgemental place and are tools to help you understand what options are available. We understand that it may be hard to implement all these ideas but if you’re like me you just do what you can. Every positive action we make, not matter how small, collectively will have a big impact.
We hope you find the info below useful and do let us know what changes you and your family have made or going to make. Thanks, Sommer x
The Low Down on Offsetting
To offset a single 4 hour return flight, you'll pay about $7USD. With our current climate emergency - is there any justification for not doing this? Have a read to understand why and how you can offset your travel and your life.
Over the last couple of weeks we've focused on travelling zero waste which is a great way to reduce the environmental impact of your travel. But whilst plastic is a huge problem - Climate Change is the biggest problem facing our world and unfortunately, air travel is a major contributor to it (making up 2% of global emissions and a large proportion of your personal emissions depending on how much you travel).
This puts all of us who care for the environment, but love to travel, in a moral dilemma. Without a doubt the most eco approach is to not fly (latest UK stats show 1 in 7 people are prepared to make that commitment), and whilst you may cut back on flying, let's be real - we're human and it's likely that some holidays will be a vice we're not willing to sacrifice.
That's where offsetting comes in - paying for projects that will even the scales and take out of the atmosphere equivalent amounts of carbon dioxide that your flights produce (or defer emissions that would otherwise be going into the atmosphere but for your investment to stop them). From tree planting to renewable energy - these projects would not happen unless you pay for them to (a concept called additionality). In a nutshell if you can't plant trees yourself - you're paying for someone else to do it for you.
Don't let the haters stop you!
Sounds good in theory - but you may have heard rumblings that offsetting is a waste of money or a cop out. It's controversial for a range of reasons - including that the emissions may have been reduced anyway, the trees planted may not survive for the length of time required to sequester carbon or that the concept of offsetting fails to dissuade people from flying - acting as a 'get-out-of-climate-guilt-free-card'.
Whilst there are legitimate arguments - I urge you to rise above it and realise that at the end of the day - if someone is planting a tree on your behalf it's worth it. If you're not the person who doesn't sponsor a child with World Vision because they think the child will only receive 80% of the money - then don't be that person with offsets either. If you have serious reservations - put your money where your mouth is and pay more for Gold Standard offsets (see below).
Let's not forget, organisations providing verified offsets are audited and meet standards set by the United Nations. Like all investments, there is an inherent risk of uncertainty, similar to sponsoring a child or donating to other charities - but at the end of the day the work that is done can't be denied.
The fact is, we already have too much carbon in the atmosphere. Already too much means we shouldn't be adding any more and the only way to do that if we are adding is to take it out and avoid putting more in there. Simplistic but true. Whilst the greatest pressure should be on governments, industry and the biggest polluters to legislate and innovate - that's not happening at the moment - so if you are privileged enough to travel - then, I believe you are obligated to offset and at least make your travel carbon neutral but even carbon positive (by buying more).
Here are my tips on how and why you should purchase offsets for your travel.
1. Commit to buying offsets
Don't debate whether to offset each flight or ship travel. Have a family meeting and make the commitment upfront now as a family that you will offset your travel. If you need to be convinced - do your research, soul searching, and dinner table discussions to satisfy yourself and stop the constant questioning in your head. The best thing to do is talk to an 8 year old and try and give them all the excuses for why you think you shouldn't buy an offset. Chances are you'll find there's no real justification.
2. Fly Less
Some people are committing to no longer flying but most of us won't or can't do this. What we can do is commit to really trying to reduce our flights and cutting any unnecessary flights as well as critically analysing whether we need to fly into holiday planning. If you fly for work - try to reduce those flights first by using video conferencing. If you travel to Europe why not travel by train and opt for it even if it is a little bit more expensive. Make the rest of your life as carbon neutral as possible so your overall footprint isn't huge.
3. Offset Even When There's no Box to Tick
Unfortunately offsetting isn't as easy as ticking a box. Some airlines offer offsetting but many don't. By all means make it easy for yourself and offset and tick the box when it's there. But when it's not - have a short list of companies that provide offsets that you can go straight to in order to calculate your own emissions and offset independently. If possible support airlines such as KLM, Air New Zealand and Qantas that have an offset program and are leading the way in cutting single use plastic and investigating how to reduce carbon emissions.
4. Pick an Offset Company and Stick with It
Check out the companies that offer offsets and calculators and choose the ones you want to support to make it efficient each time you offset. My favourite companies are below - they offer a range of projects that you and your kids can choose from. If you want the highest standard then you can choose Gold Standard that are rigorously verified by the UN as projects worthy of countries to purchase to meet the emission requirements under the Kyoto Protocol. These are approximately $18USD/per tonne of CO2. However, it's not necessary to choose these projects for your offsets as there are other schemes and projects that are excellent and meet other standards that are audited and verified - but they are about half the price at about $7USD/tonne. Our family pays $7USD/tonne.
5. Pick Project that Resonate with Your Values - Get the Kids Involved.
I personally love tree-planting projects as I love the idea of regenerating the earth. However, these weren't included under the Kyoto protocol as there are issues of permanence (they could burn or be cut down in the future) and don't address shifting away from fossil fuels. Don't let the politics of it all confuse you - if they are listed by a reputable company just trust in the process and go for it. My kids love purchasing from projects that also help communities in developing countries.
Getting the kids involved each time helps them understand Climate Change and the connection between emissions and how to get CO2 out of the air.
My Favourite Websites Are:
FlyGreen - If you book your flights through this website to company uses its commissions to buy your offsets meaning your offsets are free.
Cool Effect - Cool Effect has a very simple carbon calculator and affordable offsets at about $7/tonne CO2 (about a return 4 hour flight). There are a range of projects to choose from and all your money goes to offsetting.
World Land Trust - If you want our national hero David Attenborough's stamp of approval go with World Land Trust. They have a carbon calculator and offer offsets and David Attenborough himself states "The money that is given to the World Land Trust, in my estimation, has more effect on the wild world than almost anything I can think of".
Gold Standard - These offsets will be more expensive as they undergo the most rigorous assessments designed for nations to use to help them meet the Kyoto requirements. I don't think you need to go this far - but if you have doubts - spend the extra money and go with Gold Standard.
Offset Earth - This company is a great resource for offsetting your emissions on a monthly basis. It also helps you track and reduce your impact. Depending on your lifestyle you can offset your emissions for £4/week
5. Keep Calculating Simple
Don't get confused about calculating. Use a simple calculator such as Cool Effects or World Land Trust to calculate your flight and annual emissions. Don't get bogged down in detail - just use a calculator and roll with the estimates. If you want to err on the side of caution or be carbon positive (because we need to do more than just be neutral), then purchase a few more offsets. For ship travel - assume it's the same as airline travel and go with that.
6. Pay as You Go
I'm a big believer in paying for your offsets as you go. Firstly, this approach means you don't cop the cost in one big hit but it also means that you are engaged with the impact of each flight. If kids are involved it helps build the direct connection between actions and impact.
7. Don't stop there
It doesn't cost a lot to make your life carbon neutral. Go through life and teach your kids the attitude "do your best, offset the rest". Use the World Land Trust calculator to determine your emissions for the year - it doesn't need to be perfect.
Doing your best in your normal life means:
- Reducing meat intake
- Purchasing certified renewable electricity for the home - my favourite company is Ecotricity - with the added bonus that they have great customer service.
- Having no car, one car or a hybrid and opting for public transport when you can.
- Hanging clothes out and instead of using the dryer.
- Flying less.
- Generally buying less things, taking up less space (not having a huge house) and buying locally to reduce transport emissions.
- Using the search engine Ecosia - for phone and desktop - they plant a tree every 45 searches.
The Bigger Picture
At the end of the day, individual action is a drop in the ocean - but where it really comes to play is the impact it has on influencing huge government and industry changes. By modelling climate aware practices at home - you're creating a trend that will cause governments to act, supporting companies who are doing the right thing to grow and creating little humans that grow up into industry and country leaders that rule the world with this ethos.
To get daily inspiration follow Jacqui on instagram @jacqui.scruby or if you want extra help to live a plastic free luxe life check out her 6 weeks online course to going plastic free www.6weekstoplasticfree.com @6weekstoplasticfree and www.jacquiscruby.com
Also if you missed the previous blog posts in this series you can check it out here: