With summer less than a month away, many of us are knee-deep in travel-planning mode. Whether it’s off to a family reunion, flying south to spend Fourth of July on the beach, or hitting the road with friends, a GPS, and a cooler full of snacks, it’s highly likely that carbon footprint will rise with summertime temperatures. Fortunately, there are ways that you can offset those gas-station gallons and sky-high miles—here’s how.
What is a carbon footprint, anyway? Simply put, an individual’s carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide (or CO2) that is released into the air due to the individual’s consumption of fossil fuels. But what’s so bad about carbon dioxide? Carbon dioxide is one of earth’s greenhouse gasses—water vapor, ozone, and methane are others—that exist in our atmosphere and absorb heat. While greenhouse gasses are important for the regulation of the earth’s temperature, deforestation, and fossil-fuel use, among other activities, create an abundance of these gasses. Since this “extra” CO2 (which accounts for roughly 60 percent of the greenhouse effect) cannot escape the atmosphere, it becomes trapped, where it collects heat, thereby increasing the global temperature (hence: global warming). While some debate the existence of global warming and its effects, almost daily reports speak of the harm of rising global temperatures, including melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and damaged (or depleted) ecosystems, and food-supply shortages.
What’s Your Score?
It’s easy to find out how much your summer trip is going to cost the planet, and you can find out how much your daily commute does too. By being vegan, you’re already helping to save tons (literally) of carbon dioxide from being emitted per year—according to a University of Chicago study, a vegan produces 1.5 fewer tons of CO2 or CO2 equivalents than a person who eats the average North American diet. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about that trip to the beach. The average roundtrip cross-country flight emits roughly 4,200 pounds of CO2. Whether you’re using a plane or your auto for your summer vacation, Native Energy’s carbon footprint calculator can help you find out your impact. For flights, simply put in the airports you are traveling between. For autos, input your car’s mileage, fuel-economy class, and miles per gallon, as well as your trip locations, and it calculates your carbon dioxide emissions in tons.
How to Help
Fortunately, there’s no need to feel guilty about your vacation. Carbon offsets can be purchased to literally help offset the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by air travel, driving, electricity use, and other sources. Offsets include financial support of renewable energy projects, energy-efficiency projects, planting trees, and other projects: You can buy offsets at TerraPass and a multitude of other organizations and companies. For example, a round-trip drive from New York, NY, to Charleston, SC, in a sedan will emit roughly 0.72 tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Less than $11 in carbon offsets equal that amount. That’s the same as a weekend of soy lattes! In fact, Continental Airlines, Travelocity, Enterprise Holdings (which includes Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Alamo, and others) and more all offer carbon offsetting programs for their customers. In addition, Carbonfund.org not only provides carbon footprint calculators, but also provides tips for reducing your footprint and carbon offsets.
It’s important that we take good care of our planet, just as we do ourselves. This summer, make the extra step to offset your travel plans, and reduce your impact on our precious home.