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Carbon Offsets for Gap Year Plane Travel

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 2 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Gap Year Gap Year Travellers Carbon

Gap year travellers who plan trips abroad tend to include at least one plane ride in their travel plans. As planes are known to contribute a great deal of carbon to the environment (estimates put it the carbon emissions of one international flight as similar to the emissions of a year of driving), finding a way to neutralise these carbons emissions is important.

One way to neutralise such carbon emissions is to purchase carbon offsets. Below are some basic answers to frequently asked questions about carbon offsets.

What Are Carbon Offsets?

Carbon offsets are vehicles by which an individual's carbon emissions are neutralised. These emissions may come from plane travel, car travel or even simply the use of electricity.

Carbon offsets can be purchased in measures of metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, and these equivalents are usually generated by renewable energy sources. For example, wind farms and hydroelectric projects are often sources of carbon offsets.

Basically, by purchasing a carbon offset an individual, company or government purchases enough carbon dioxide equivalents to neutralise the carbon emissions generated by a specific plane flight, project or year of living. This is sometimes referred to as reducing a carbon footprint or becoming carbon neutral.

Why Are Carbon Offsets Important?

Carbon offsets are important because if carbon emissions are not neutralised then they can contribute to greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are a combination of gases that stay trapped below the earth's atmosphere and cause the earth to warm.

This is known as climate change or global warming and affects the earth's ecosystem. But by fighting greenhouse gases with carbon offsets, it is accepted that somewhere on earth a project is carried out to keep new greenhouse gases from being emitted, so the overall total of greenhouse gases is minimised and their affects on the earth are reduced - or at least kept from increasing.

Where Can I Get Carbon Offsets?

Carbon offsets can be purchased from a variety of private organisations. Some airlines can recommend a source of carbon offsets or will even offer the chance to purchase carbon offsets through them. Websites also exist to help individuals select carbon offsets. Carbon Catalog and EcoBusinessLinks both offer facilities for searching or browsing carbon offset providers.

How do I Know if Carbon Offsets Are Good?

There are a lot of providers of carbon offsets, but not all of them hold the same standards. To make sure that you purchase a good carbon offset, be sure to ask if the purchase that you are considering meets industry standards and is verified by an independent third party. Some standards to be aware of include the U.N. Clean Development Mechanism, Voluntary Carbon Standard and the Green e-Certificate.

How Many Carbon Offsets do I Need?

Most carbon offset providers feature a carbon calculator or other facility for totaling up your carbon footprint. By using such a calculator you can pinpoint how much carbon your travel or lifestyle produces and then purchase an equivalent carbon offset. The Carbon Fund offers a number of useful calculators for determining your carbon footprint. Also, contacting a carbon offset provider to ask them about carbon production and offsets is another way to ensure that you purchase a carbon offset large enough to cover your needs.

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