Going Green: Can we off-set our carbon footprint if we board flights?

Can we carbon off-set flights? (photo: phaisarnwong2517 - stock.adobe.com)
Can we carbon off-set flights? (photo: phaisarnwong2517 - stock.adobe.com)

Green campaigner and consumer expert, Angela Terry, separates climate change facts from fiction and explains how you can take simple, practical steps to help save the planet. Follow @ouronehome & visithttps://onehome.org.uk/ for more advice.

Q: Is it okay if I book a flight and then carbon offset it?

A: Now that foreign travel seems to be finally opening up after the pandemic, most of us are looking forward to a well-deserved break in the sun.

I’d love to be able to tell you that carbon offsetting your flight is a way to make it eco-friendly.

However, I’m afraid in reality it’s rarely a credible alternative to not flying.

What is carbon offsetting?

It’s a way of compensating for your carbon dioxide emissions by donating to a scheme designed to make equivalent CO2 reductions.

For example, a seat on a return flight from London to New York generates around 1.8 tonnes of CO2.

You could carbon offset it by donating money to a reforestation project to fund the amount of tree planting required to suck 1.8 tonnes of emissions from the atmosphere.

Online calculators – like My Climate or carbonfootprint.com – will do the sums for you and suggest appropriate projects.

Truly green?

Many environmentalists question the validity of carbon offsetting.

As a spokesperson for European campaign group Transport and Environment has pointed out, it’s like claiming to be on a diet while paying someone else to go to the gym for you.

After all, we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions to keep our planet liveable.

Despite carbon offsetting, your flight is still releasing the same emissions into the atmosphere.

Planting trees

Many carbon offsetting schemes fund tree planting, as trees soaks up carbon dioxide.

As long as the project is credible, this is fantastic.

But it’s not a substitute for cutting your carbon footprint.

We can only tackle the climate crisis if we protect nature and cut emissions.

Also, it’s good to be aware that the timescales around carbon offsetting and tree projects are long-term.

For example, a newly-planted tree can take more than 20 years to capture the CO2 that a scheme promises.

Considering the urgency of the climate crisis, this is not helpful.

We’ve also seen with the spread of wildfires – from Australia to the Amazon – that young trees cannot be guaranteed to trap carbon permanently in a warming world.

Fairness

The majority of people taking flights are relatively wealthy, while the people who are already suffering the most because of climate change live in poorer countries.

There is an argument that carbon offsetting is just a licence to continue to pollute – while others suffer the consequences.

Of course, it’s great to donate to an environmental project, but it’s not going to negate damage from flying. Our best tip is to fly less.

Celebrity spot

Motivated to do the right thing by his seven-year-old son, Simon Cowell is the latest celebrity investing in electric vehicles.

Simon Cowell (photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

He was spotted arriving at the Britain’s Got Talent auditions in a quirky neon green Renault Twizy, one of the cheapest EVs on the market. But the music mogul has green motoring form. Last year he had a Porsche 911, worth £250,000, converted to electric by a bespoke car company. He also owns an e-bike, although he’s been very unlucky and managed to fall from it twice!

Green swap

Swap your plastic bottle of laundry detergent for a plastic free eco-friendly subscription service like smol.

Urge not to use plastic bottles (photo: jchizhe - stock.adobe.com)

It works out at 19p per wash. Cheapest options are around 7p per wash, most expensive being 30p. Price-wise it’s somewhere in the middle.

The question is will the energy crisis end soon?

Sadly, high energy bills are here for a while.

High energy costs (photo: adobe.com)

Ofgem announced that from April, the energy price cap – the maximum amount a utility company can charge customers per year – would increase by a staggering 54 per cent to nearly £2,000 for an average household.

This huge jump reflects the growing cost of gas on the international market.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a short-term blip. Another increase of potentially £400 is expected from Ofgem in October.

Bills are going to keep going up.

Why’s it so bad in the UK?

In the UK, we rely on gas to heat 85 per cent of our homes and for a third of our electricity generation.

We also have some of the worst housing stock in Europe for retaining heat.

Our homes are leaky!

As a result, we are very exposed to global fossil fuel prices.

Government help

All customers will receive a £200 temporary reduction off bills.

This will be repaid in future bills in £40 instalments for the next five years.

Those in homes rated A to D for council tax reasons will receive a £150 rebate into their bank account from their Local Authority.

In addition, vulnerable customers and those on lower-incomes should be able to access schemes to help with the cost of insulation.

They should also receive the warm home discount.

Please talk to your energy supplier if you are really worried.

Although bear in mind those working in call centres will be receiving a lot of just such inquiries.

Insulate Britain

We can’t control commodity prices but we can avoid wasting energy and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time.

This is definitely one of those cases where going green will save you money.

Making your home more energy efficient will significantly cut your bills.

One of the best thing you can do is insulate your home.

Up to half of the heat in a house can escape through the roof, walls, windows and floor.

All need to be insulated.

The One Home or Energy Saving Trust websites have further information.

The more your home is insulated, the warmer it will be in winter.

Another benefit is that its value will go up.

Making improvements to a property’s energy efficiency rating could add more than £16,000 on average to its sale price.

It makes sense to invest in insulation.

Fact or fiction

Most electric cars don’t have enough range. False!

Many average over 200 miles per charge.

Norwegian start-up Fresco has created an electric vehicle that can go 1,000km! As Brit car drivers average less than 30 miles a day, range anxiety is a thing of the past.