Carbon offsetting version two: a greener way to travel?

Carbon offsetting isn't perfect but Much Better Adventures’ partnership with environmental charity, the Converging World, has produced an initiative that just might work

With the summer holidays just around the corner, environmentally conscious travellers are looking for ways to make their travel plans greener. But with carbon offsetting efforts looking dubious, a new alternative has emerged thanks to a partnership between NGO, the Converging World (TCW), and ethical travel company Much Better Adventures.

Carbon offsetting involves investing in carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas-reducing initiatives to balance out emissions produced by another activity. With more attention focused on climate change issue than ever before, carbon offsetting has become a boom industry. A report by Ecosystem Marketplace and New Carbon Finance valued the voluntary carbon markets – which includes non-mandatory offsetting by individuals, companies and governments – at $705 million (£431 million) in 2008. This represented an increase of more than 50 per cent from the previous year. 

Offsetting is arranged by investing in a range of projects that include renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation. Companies often offer carbon offsets to customers when selling them products like holiday packages or flights. Advocates of the scheme believe it is a good way of supporting alternative energy and compensating for unavoidable emissions.

Critics, however, argue carbon offsetting does little to reduce emissions because it doesn’t encourage people to change their own emission-intensive behaviour. It simply passes responsibility for dealing with the problem to someone else. Others believe it’s too difficult to verify where the investments go and how they are used, and it was this dilemma that was the impetus for TCW and Much Better Adventures’ initiative. TCW have developed a Carbon Calculator that calculates the CO2 emissions associated with travel by air, bus, train, car and ferry. Users can go to Much Better Adventures’ website which provides a suggested donation amount that corresponds with their emissions and then donate this sum directly to TCW.

The charity will invest donations in their renewable energy projects, building wind turbines in the developing world. Currently, the charity operates two turbines in Tamil Nadu in India which produce over eight million kilowatts of energy per year. Thanks to the joint venture with Much Better Adventures, TCW hopes to extend its wind power projects to other parts of India, Asia and Africa. This, says Much Better Adventures, means your money will go further and to projects that are guaranteed green.

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