If you, like me, have the luxury of flitting off to some foreign destination this festive season (be it Joburg or Japan) you might be wondering how to go about finding a nifty green solution to counter that sudden spike in your carbon footprint.

The sheer volume of carbon emissions resulting from air travel is startling and one could be forgiven for feeling slightly guilty after stepping onto that plane. Fear not! There are numerous ways to lessen that guilt. The one I am most interested in at the moment is that of donating money towards tree-planting projects. Depending on the amount donated, this will go some way towards sequestering the carbon you have helped in emitting with only a few clicks of that mouse.

Treksa offer a carbon emissions calculator on their site. You simply type in city of departure and your destination and it will calculate the kilos of CO2 your flight will release. From there, treksa recommend the amount of money you should donate to offset your emissions. This is based on the calculation that 1 ton CO2 = US$ 15 (which is enough to purchase 3 trees). All of the money donated goes toward a tree-planting initiative in South America.

It takes on average 20 years for a newly planted forest to attain maturity, so any trees we plant now will be offsetting carbon for the next 20 years.

The calculation of the amount of carbon stored by the growing forest includes the carbon stored in the trees and soils, minus the release of carbon by the decay of dead organic matter, such as dead wood.

Based on the basic method provided in the IPCC 2006 Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, and using their default biomass values and emission factors, we estimate averaging the offset over all tree species we aim to plant, one tree can be estimated to take up 10.9 kg CO2/yr. Over the 20 years it takes for a tree to mature, this amounts to 218 kg CO2 taken up per tree.

proj_green_log_smlSlightly closer to home, Kulula teamed up with Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA) last year to reduce the impact of local flights. Kulula’s Project Green encourages clients to donate between R10 – R200 towards FTFA’s National Tree Distribution Programme for disadvantaged schools when they book a flight. The money collected is put towards greening new and deteriorated landscapes, including funding the landscaping of school playgrounds in under-privileged areas. To date, a total of R300 000 has been raised in support of this initiative.

ecopreneur_carboncalcAlso created on home turf is Ecopreneur’s Carbon Calculator, a nifty user-friendly spreadsheet that allows you to enter simple variables and calculate your offset (you can add in your general home and motor footprint as well, whilst you’re at it).

Air travel emissions vary widely according to the length of the flight – due to the largest quantities of fuel being used during takeoff and landing. The three examples on Ecopreneur are representative of an average in each category of short, medium and long-haul flights.

The Ecopreneur Calculator also includes fields for car travel (total for a year), so even if you’re not flying anywhere you could still work out your vehicle’s footprint instead.

If you are travelling overseas and would rather support local initiatives, you can simply donate money towards FTFA on their website as well as support them by purchasing some of their merchandise. I will definitely be wearing my neat FTFA t-shirt all the way to chilly London.

Ed’s note: Whilst carbon offsetting isn’t necessarily, in my opinion, the panacea for all our carbon woes, if done wisely, it’s certainly a good place to start.  To quote Ecopreneur: “Offsetting your carbon emissions with tree planting should be done through an accredited project to ensure that care is taken both of your trees and of the host environment. Local accredited projects uplift communities by planting trees in denuded areas which provide fruit, shade and valuable recreational spaces.”

Jacqui_cropThis article was written by Jacqui Stephenson.
Jacqui has a B.Sc Honours degree in Zoology from the University of Cape Town and works on scientific and agricultural projects for Tokai-based C4 EcoSolutions. C4 EcoSolutions (Pty) Ltd. provides scientific expertise on large-scale ecological projects, and the management of climate change.
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