Out of the Ordinary :
On Poetry and the World
A Conference in Canberra on December 5-7, 2022
How to Offset Travel
Georgia O'Keefe, "Sunrise 1916," watercolour. Public Domain
How to Offset Travel
Offsetting international and/or interstate travel is easy and can be calculated and paid for on a number of wesbites, as follows:
1) Most Australian offsetting sites* will calculate the carbon emissions generated by a seat on a flight
e.g. if you go to https://www.greenfleet.com.au you'll see a box entitled "Offset your carbon emissions." Under "What would you like to offset?" scroll down to the type of flight you are taking (e.g. "Return Domestic Flight (short)," which would cover flights from most cities on the East Coast of Australia to Canberra), and a figure will come up—in this case $14.40 AUD, the price to cover 800 kg CO2. Whereas Return Domestic Flight (long), e.g. Perth to Canberra, will cost $43.20 AUD (covering 2,400 kg CO2). You'll be able to pay for the offset there and then, via the same site, which will send you a receipt. You're done.
2) To calculate individual bus, rail and car trips is a little more tricky, but not that much.
2a) Use an emissions calculator to determine the amount of CO2 that your trip will generate:
- To calculate car emissions for an individual trip:
you can go to a site like https://ecotree.green/en/calculate-car-co2, plug in e.g. Sydney to Canberra return in a large car and you'll see that those 572 kilometres will generate 288 kg of CO2. You now know the amount of emissions you have to offset. Please head to step 2 below.
- To calculate rail emissions for an individual trip:
again on ecotree, but now at https://ecotree.green/en/calculate-train-co2, if you plug in Sydney to Canberra return again, you'll see that that same 572 kilometre distance will generate 15 kg of CO2. This is the amount you'll need to offset. Please head to step 2 below.
(NB to get that figure you'll need to tick the box indicating the train runs partially on diesel (as ours does—easy to find out with a little web searching). Whereas once the electric ones are rolled out in 2023, you'll be looking at 3kg of CO2. If the proposed High-speed electric trains get up, it will be 1kg. Such are the practical effects of our policy decisions.)
- To calculate bus emissions for an individual trip:
ecotree won't do this, but a site that does is https://www.copolo.com/climate-change. Scroll down to "Travel Footprint Calculator" and tap on "Ground Transport" and then on "Bus." Plug in the cities Sydney to Canberra and return in this case and the figure will be 30.04 lbs CO2 (USA site, so the measure are imperial), i.e. roughly 14kg CO2, close to the diesel train. This is the amount you'll need to offset. Please head to step 2 below.
2b) Calculate the cost of offsetting that amount of CO2
Most sites allow encourage you to offset carbon by the tonne, i.e. by the 1,000 kg unit. On Greenfleet that will currently cost you $18 AUD. To find the amount of dollars you'll need to pay so as to offset a lesser amount of carbon, divide that lesser amount by 1000 and multiply by 18. E.g. if you need to pay for the 288 kg generated by that Sydney to Canberra trip in the SUV, it will be 288/1000 x 18 = $5.18 AUD. Whereas that 14kg bus trip will be 14/1000 x 18 = 25c AUD. This is the amount you'll need to pay. Now please head to step 3 below.
3) Donate that amount to offsetting projects
As noted, sites tend to encourage you to offset one tonne minimum (again, about $18). But many allow you to specify a figure for the amount you wish to donate as well. I.e. to do this on Greenfleet, head to https://www.greenfleet.com.au/donate, just scroll down the page to "Other (please enter amount)," enter the amount, pay up and they'll send you a receipt. You're done.
*NB We've used examples from Greenfleet above, as it is long established and reliable, but its website can be clunky and there are others. Please let us know if you have better experiences elsewhere. Also, please let us know if any of the info here is wrong. Like many, we're on a learning curve!
Why stop there?
Most Australian sites do not calculate individual train, bus or even car trips (as opposed to flights, which nearly all do), presumably because the sums are so relatively small and they would rather steer you towards a larger donation.
As far as cars go, if you do have one, you could ignore all the single trip calculations above and sign up to the full year deals such sites tend to specialise in (i.e. where you pay to offset the average emissions of a full year's use of the kind of vehicle you own). If so, you'll find that on Greenfleet the cost to offset a small car for a full year is $68.40 AUD; medium = $77.40 AUD; large/SUV = $90)
i.e. about the price of a tank of petrol.