Carbon footprint by Angela Caldin

I’m getting increasingly concerned about my family’s carbon footprint which is fast assuming the proportions of a giant’s imprint.

Yesterday we took our younger daughter and her partner to the airport for their journey back to Brisbane after a brilliant family Christmas here in Auckland. They took with them, as well as the usual suitcases, two mountain bikes in enormous cardboard boxes and a surfboard with its cover stuffed with all sorts. They’ve set up in Australia after two years in the UK. Our elder daughter lives in Auckland and our son lives in New York City. We spend six months of the year here in Auckland and six months in London, so we are flying about from one hemisphere to the other with alarming regularity, crossing the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Tasman, clocking up the air miles as we go.

Life changes

I don’t know why this diaspora has happened to us. Sometimes I think it’s a good thing because it shows our children are adventurous and brave, not content to stay cosily close to home but keen to conquer new horizons.  Sometimes I think it’s a bad thing because it shows they are completely bonkers and I wonder what we have done to make them abandon us and go so far away. On the plus side, it has made us, I feel, rather intrepid as well as broadening our perspectives and teaching us all manner of life lessons. On the minus side, the air fares have eaten, and continue to eat, into our retirement income.

Saving the planet

Apart from the money for fares, there’s the cost to the planet of all this zooming around. Our CO2 emissions must be extremely high. I do my best to save the planet by recycling, freecycling, avoiding plastic bags, composting kitchen scraps and so on, but I realise that something more is required for the air travel that I’m not going to give up.

One option is to offset air travel carbon emissions directly when booking: you just pay an extra fee (about 10%) on top of the flight cost which is donated to a carbon offset scheme. Around a third of airlines have some sort of carbon offset programme, but how they work varies. Some have their own schemes and others are enrolled in other people’s. Some are upfront about their offset programmes and others hide them away. Some give you the option to offset before you book and some only after.

There are also carbon emissions offset programmes that you can deal with directly. Using their online carbon emission calculator, you calculate the exhaust of your flight and can then select a project that reduces carbon emissions elsewhere, for example by providing cooking stoves or planting trees. You transfer the required funds to the programme and the rest is done for you. There is a huge range of projects and some are cheaper than others. Programmes include:

It’s an additional cost to add to all the others, but if it really helps and it keeps my conscience clear, then I’ll do it. But children and grandchildren beware, because when we shuffle off this mortal coil, there’ll be a lot less money for you to inherit.

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