The Extra Mile

I want to offset the carbon from my long-haul flight. What are my options?

We answer your travel questions

17 November 2019 - 00:00 By Elizabeth Sleith
Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to global carbon emissions.
Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to global carbon emissions.
Image: 123RF/francoillustration

Q. My daughter and I are going to London in January, and she would like to offset the carbon emissions from our flight in some way. Could you point us towards some organisation that can help us do this? - Hannah Howard

A. Offsetting means calculating the amount of greenhouse gases that will be generated by your flight and then putting money into projects that will prevent or remove the same amount from the atmosphere elsewhere.

There are many companies that offer such options for companies and individuals. These essentially sell "carbon credits" to you and then use the money to support eco-programmes around the world. Some organisations to look at are Gold Standard, Fly Green, and Climate Care. Several of these sites let you input the details of your flight - including your departure and arrival airports and which class you are flying, and then give you a calculation.

Atmosfair says a flight in economy class for two people from OR Tambo International to London Heathrow will generate 8,251kg of CO2. Their recommended price for offsetting this is 190 (R3,135). You can then choose whether you want to pay to offset the total amount, or a percentage thereof. You can also select the specific project you wish to support. Your options include helping to supply cookstoves in Rwanda, which consume 80% less combustibles than traditional stoves, and supporting the building of new biogas plants, which turn dung into gas, in Nepal.

Gold Standard asks you to figure out your own emissions - they recommend the calculator from WWF UK, though this is a questionnaire that takes your entire lifestyle into account, not just your flight. (It's rather fascinating). You then choose a project to which you'd like to contribute. Theirs include forest-regeneration programmes in Ethiopia, cleaner stoves in Malawi, and clean-water projects in Rwanda.

If you prefer to keep your contributions local, Credible Carbon is a South African company that sells carbon credits to businesses and individuals. Through them, you can contribute to projects including a low-carbon housing development in Khayelitsha, Western Cape, and the Wildlands Conservation Trust, which supports recycling projects in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

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