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Travel Forums General Talk OFFSETTING CARBON (for flights)

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11. Posted by bwiiian (Travel Guru 769 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Flying is better for the environment than taking a basically you have already done your bit by flying to reduce carbon emmisions.
Although the "Don't Take A Cruise" campaign never really took off. I mean, why should the very rich stop what they are doing to help the environment when it can all be blamed on cheap economy flights that the rest of us "lower classes" take...and we just believed them...

12. Posted by si403 (Full Member 130 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

are cruises really worse than flying? do you mean like for like, or cumulatively?

[ Edit: Edited on 18-Nov-2009, at 06:48 by si403 ]

13. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5644 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Quoting si403

are cruises really worse than flying? do you mean like for like, or cumulatively?

Interesting question and topic.
I guess it is all based on a number of variables: number of people in the mode of transport, kilometres travelled, speed etc. etc.
I can imagine that a huge cruiseship which travels very slowly but actually moves at a very low speed is more environmentally unfriendly than a plane yes.

But than again: if you compare the total over a year, maybe the total damage of cars or buses is even worse than planes or boats.
Another topic here (awesome views out of planes) made me think about why people travel by plane on distances that are almost faster with a train or car

[ Edit: Edited on 18-Nov-2009, at 13:13 by Utrecht ]

14. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Good question. Maybe it doesn't occur to them that they'll need to compound in time to/fro airports so flight time seems shorter? Maybe the time suits better (not all countries do good train schedule)? Maybe the person can't drive? Maybe it's cheaper (especially with budget airline promotions)?

15. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

si403 - I used to use Zerofootprint for carbon offsets. I don't offset anymore, though, for the reasons that BedouinLeo suggested. In my mind, offsetting was a way for me to continue travelling on planes and assuage my guilt, but actually didn't do anything to change my lifestyle. Planting trees is nice, but they take years to grow before they suck CO2 out of the air, and even then they are pulling CO2 out of the air at ground level, and not in the upper atmosphere. Plus, I found different offsetting calculators came up with wildly different amounts of CO2 generated by flying. It was difficult to determine how much CO2 I needed to offset.

If you want to do something, I would look at donating some money to protect forested land in Costa Rica.

Utrecht - In North America, flying is often cheaper and more convenient than train travel (which can be expensive and infrequent) or car travel (with city centre parking charges and congestion).

16. Posted by bwiiian (Travel Guru 769 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Quoting si403

are cruises really worse than flying? do you mean like for like, or cumulatively?

Cruises use up 3 times the amount of carbon emmisions per person compared to flying. In fact the shipping industry as a whole is far more damaging to the environment than the whole airline industry. About 2% of total emmisions comes from the airlines and 6% comes from the shipping industry. The word "scapegoat" comes to mind.

17. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

What do you know. I wouldn't have thought it, actually. But it does appear to be true. Here's a source with some numbers and again here. "A cruise liner such as Queen Mary 2 emits 0.43kg of CO2 per passenger mile, compared with 0.257kg for a long-haul flight (even allowing for the further damage of emissions being produced in the upper atmosphere)."

Of course, people on cruises are getting accommodation at the same time as the trip. According to this site, the CO2 emissions from a hotel per night are approximately 31.93kgCO2/room/night. Flying from Miami to Puerto Rico and staying at a resort would generate (2 flights of 1682 km plus 7 nights in hotel = (1682 * 2 * .257) + (7 * 31.93) = (864) + (224) = 1088 kg of CO2. I pick a hotel, because I figure folks that cruise are likely to be the luxury vacation sort, and not go in for dorm hostels.

Strangely, I found a site that claims a single passenger on a one week cruise generates 1.2 tons of carbon. 1.2 tons is 1088 kg of CO2. (source for the 1.2 tons of Carbon is this site: If I calculate myself, based on the following itinerary "the 3,634-passenger Freedom of the Seas will begin her regular schedule of seven-night Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami, with port stops in in Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Royal Caribbean's private destination at Labadee, Hispaniola" - I get 3593 km (roughly with distances calculated using this website). That's 1544 kg of CO2.

The second link here has tips on what other options you might consider instead of a cruise. Overall though, I think if your carbon footprint is your primary concern, you probably shouldn't be taking a holiday away at all.

[ Edit: Edited on 22-Nov-2009, at 02:46 by GregW ]

18. Posted by Peter (Admin 6286 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I'm still a fan of offsetting, even if it is as Greg says a way to "assuage your guilt". It certainly shouldn't make you feel like you're fully reversing the effect of your flight, since that just isn't the case, but at least it's something!

And if trees seem a little slow and unreliable (they might die after all), there are other systems which don't use trees for the offset. An example is Germany's Atmosfair which offsets by funding renewable energy projects in developing countries. So not only are you helping provide some clean energy for the future, but it's also going to a developing country. Other examples are Swiss based My Climate or Canadian organisation Zerofootprint. US based Liveneutral does it differently again; they buy certified credits from If I understand it right, it is effectively allowing you to take part in certified carbon emissions trading. That's pretty cool.

I also really like Greg's idea of putting some money towards protecting forests in Costa Rica. It's not something that is included in emissions trading schemes and as a result often gets ignored. Yet, it's a vitally important part of turning this situation around. And the tie-in with your trip gives it extra meaning.

I guess you just need to be realistic about what's happening. If you are keen to spend a bit extra to help reduce your impact on the environment, then I for one think that's a marvelous thing. It's certainly one step more than most people are willing to take.

Oh, and on the boats thing.. my understanding is that a large problem with the shipping industry is that their polution is largely unregulated an not monitored well. It's also been left out of the Kyoto Protocol. This is one of the many reasons that buying locally is such a great thing to do.

19. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

One other thing that I try to do when I am travelling a lot and starting to feel guilty about it, is that I try and "offset" my carbon emissions in other parts of my life.

So, for example. I'll try and cut back on the amount of meat I eat (the production of 1kg of beef releases greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4kg of carbon dioxide - source), buy locally produced produce to cut down on my food miles or walk a little further to cut down on the amount generated by transport. This way, you can offset the amount of greenhouse gas and energy used in one part of your life to allow you to use that in another part. Like Peter says, it is at least something.


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