Recently, a friend asked about the inherent value in knowing one’s carbon emissions rate. She was not being callous in asking the question as much as frustrated by a lack of understanding about carbon emissions and how to evaluate carbon offsetting schemes.
Short of growing or raising her own food sources, using bicycles as her only mode of transport, employing solar power for all her electrical needs, buying only gently used clothing, and vacationing in her backyard, all she felt was constant guilt for living her life and doing what she loved to do – travel! So, let’s put things into perspective.
Understanding carbon emissions
Basically, carbon emissions are calculated as pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) released as a result of an action by an organization, event, product, person or even natural occurrence.
What does one pound of CO2 look like? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), it helps to think of CO2 as gas trapped inside a balloon. Filling a balloon with one pound of CO2 would swell the balloon to about the size of a rubber exercise ball (about two and a half feet across). Each day, the average American fills up about 57 of these balloons.
How does travel factor in to CO2? According to Mother Nature Network, traveling 2,000 miles in an airplane produces 1 ton of carbon dioxide and driving 1,900 miles in a mid-sized car also produces 1 ton of carbon dioxide. If you want to determine your approximate carbon emissions, jot down your travels in the last year, locate your latest utility statements and fill in the carbon calculator.
Why you should travel green
While some industry policies, such as the European Union (EU) requirement that airlines offset their carbon emissions for continental flights, are helping to curb carbon emissions, it is also important to be aware of how responsible travel choices, such as taking trains rather than flying or driving, can also greatly reduce your carbon footprint.