Carbon Offsets for Flights: An Idea Whose Time Has Come (but not to the US)

Peter de Jager recently started an interesting discussion/poll on the ASAE Executive Management Section listserv on carbon footprints. He asked listserv participants to respond to a short survey via email (so you didn’t have to come clean to the entire list).

  1. Do you know what a ‘carbon footprint’ is..
  2. What is your Carbon footprint?
  3. How often have you calculated your Carbon Footprint?
  4. What… if anything… you doing ANYTHING to reduce it?

Surprisingly, I had never calculated my carbon footprint. So I went to the Climate Crisis online tool to get the info.

Even though I live in DC, where our electricity is provided almost entirely by coal (thanks a lot, Congress!), I was doing great until I plugged in my information about flights, which just killed me.

So I clicked on the link to purchase carbon offsets. I realize that the whole buying carbon offsets thing is controversial. But what surprised me is that it’s pretty cheap – about $150 a year to completely offset all my carbon emissions.

And I got thinking – why don’t the airlines make purchasing enough carbon offsets to make your flight carbon neutral available for each flight as an optional part of the transaction?

Which is what I mentioned to Peter, who pointed out to me that some carriers already do. Unfortunately, virtually none of them are US carriers (Continental and Delta are the only exceptions).

Why do we ALWAYS have to be the last ones to adopt green policies? This would cost the struggling US carriers nothing and gain them an enormous amount of good will and good press. What’s the holdup? The world can’t wait.