Eco Comment – How to Offset Your Holiday Carbon Emissions

26 January 2024

I recently booked a flight to Berlin and for the first time was asked if I wanted to pay extra to ‘offset’ the emissions. As chance would have it, I also saw a post from a friend who was ‘feeling perplexed’ about a flight that she had to take. She wrote this in the context of feeling elated after she had discovered a local refill shop and so had been able to ditch one plastic bottle from her life but had then been totally deflated to learn that a return flight to Berlin emits around 0.6 tonnes C02 – three times the emissions saved from a year of recycling. Meaning that her small eco change felt pointless and insignificant.

I was as perplexed as she was. I don’t really understand the whole issue. Actually, that’s not totally true. I understand that air miles = aviation fuel burnt and that some how we have to try and rectify the damage caused to the environment by the burning of the fuel. What I can’t quite work out is how the airline does this? Does it really go out and plant so many trees in response to all flights taken? Apparently it can be a simple as this. A short flight = 2 trees if you maintain them and 7 if you plant them in the wild. ( So, the money you pay to the airline goes to a fund or organisation that supports environmental sustainability and carbon offsetting.


More research suggested that possibly not all offsetting emissions companies are equal. ‘’ produced an article in November 2022 ‘Carbon Offsetting: How to reduce the impact of flying – the truth behind the schemes that promise to reduce your impact on the environment’. It puts the issue into understandable terms: each passenger on a return flight from London to Singapore accounts for around 3 tonnes of C02, the equivalent of heating a family home for a year.

The article then gives examples of airlines that offer schemes. At the time of writing only 4 of the 11 most used airlines offered their own schemes and those that did were questionable if not ‘woefully inadequate’. But there are non-profit companies that will give you an average carbon estimate of your route and then you can choose to make a one off payment. To ensure that you choose an effective scheme, there is an internationally recognised certification for these: VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) and Gold Standard. However ‘Offsetting isn’t the only solution or the only thing we should be considering, but most of us can’t reduce our footprint to zero.’ (Sarah Leugers of the Gold Standard.)

Here are some suggestions from the article for you to consider before booking your next flight or summer holiday.

1. Use a search tool to find the greenest flight for your journey.

2. Fly economy – business and first class are responsible for up to 4 times more C02 per passenger.

3. Choose greener aircraft – newer ones are often more fuel efficient.

4. Fly direct – taking off uses more fuel than cruising.

5. Pack light – heavier planes use more fuel.

6. Take the train – Eurostar emits around 90% less carbon than the equivalent flight.

I’ve also been told that you can include sustainability in your search for good hotels. Some Hotel Chains are Eco Friendly and offer ‘Green vacations.’ It’s obvious that I don’t take formal holidays very often, but in future I shall know how to go about getting the greenest deal that I can.

Happy Holidays!

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

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