Flying up a storm: Offsetting GHG emissions for traveling change-makers


The good news: I’m lucky enough to work with amazing clients all over the continent who change the world on a daily basis. And I’m one of those freaky people that actually love travel, airports and all – which is good, since most training and facilitation requires face-time. The bad news: While I’m off helping others ‘save the world’, I’m also helping pump tonnes of nasty fossil fuel emissions into our beleaguered atmosphere.

Oh, the irony. Especially on Earth Day!

Nowadays, many airlines offer ‘offsetting’ options for a small donation when you purchase your ticket. But I admit, I’m skeptical. Are they investing in companies that plant trees for biofuel – but only after clear-cutting entire stands of 300-year old cedars? In other words, are the projects actually not resulting in “additional” CO2 reductions? Or are they contributing to other negative non-carbon impacts, like investing in run-of-river hydro-electric projects that produce ‘green energy’ by trashing salmon spawning streams, or that undercut the conservation-economy efforts of First Nations in their territories?

It all comes down to trusting the offsetting supplier or broker. So, I asked another frequent-flyer, longtime business leader and environmental activist Joel Solomon, of Renewal Partners what he does.  He suggested “Offsetters”, a Canadian organization with 25 staff based out of Vancouver. According to their site, they have one of the lowest overhead rates in the industry. As well, they say they’re “verified by third parties as generating additional, permanent reductions in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

So I checked out their handy calculator, and learned that, on a recent trip from Vancouver to Philadelphia and back, I alone was responsible for spewing another 1.8917 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Tonnes, people!  Blerg!  But wait – for $47.29 I can invest in permanent, additional CO2 reductions that will counter most of that, and alleviate at least some of my chronic guilt.

Now, not for one minute do I believe that we can, or should, buy our way out of our collective planet-trashing lifestyles. But, until we can all sit together as faux-embodied beings, reading one another’s body language and doing our small-group breakouts in Star Trek’s much-awaited Holadeck, supporting Offsetters, or something like it (BTW, recommendations welcome!) looks like the best interim solution for frequent travelers like me. It’s certainly better than doing nothing at all.

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