For over a decade, we’ve heard talk about carbon offsets and programs to reduce our carbon footprint when we travel. It seems that years ago, there was a big push to purchase carbon credits through various airlines, but over the years the discussion has grown relatively quiet. So what is the deal? Are carbon offsets still a thing, and do they really do anything?

While there are better ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint daily, air travel is a tough one to combat. Since electric planes don’t exist, carbon offsets have been put into place to give travellers the option of neutralizing their impact on the environment. However, not all carbon offsets are created equal. Some programs are better than others and discovering which one to contribute to is as important as researching which charity you’d like to donate your dollars.

According to information on the David Suzuki Foundation page, “offsets from tree-planting projects are problematic for many reasons, including their lack of permanence and the fact that these projects do not address our dependence on fossil fuels.” So, although tree-planting initiatives sound good, they don’t make much difference when it comes to air travel.

What you’ll want to look for are initiatives that are putting the money into research and development of cleaner energy and cleaner fuel alternatives. In short, Gold Standard projects stand the best chance of making your dollars count.

Gold Standard is the highest standard in the carbon offset world. This standard makes sure that all projects that wear its label meets the specific environmental criteria. Only projects that focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency can qualify to be Gold Standard, excluding tree-planting initiatives.

There are a few ways to offset your carbon footprint, and different airlines use different organizations to offer this to their guests. Here’s a breakdown of a few to consider:

Less Emissions, Inc – Air Canada
When you book a flight with Air Canada, you have the option of opting in to offset your carbon. Air Canada partners with Less Emissions, Inc., who offer a quick calculator to determine the cost of offsetting your carbon emissions. You then have the option of offsetting through Gold Standard or another standard VER+.

Sustainable Travel International – United Airlines
Several tour operators and other businesses partner with Sustainable Travel International (STI) to handle their offsetting. United Airlines is a significant supporter of this organization, and their passengers have the option to offset directly on the STI website. It’s effortless, go to the calculator, type in your route, and choose if you are supporting the Gold Standard or a reforestation project.

ClimateCare – Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand has partnered with Climate Care which is a big supporter of Gold Standard projects. Similar to the airlines above, you would visit their site, pop in your route, and checkout. It’s quick and straightforward to do, and you’ll feel good knowing your money is going to a Gold Standard project.

It’s true that there isn’t a ton of buzz around Carbon Offsetting programs anymore, but as travellers that are increasingly more aware of our environmental impact, it’s up to us to do the research. On your next booking, speak with your Travel Manager to discuss offsetting your flight, and to ensure the dollars go back to a Gold Standard program.