Unless you’ve taken up a flatshare with Bikini Bottom’s Patrick Star, you’ll have heard about CO2 trading. In the EU version of the thing, a cap is set on specific emissions, which is also constantly lowered year after year. If you find yourself above it, then you’ve got to buy credits – effectively supporting schemes to reduce emissions somewhere else.
However, you might be excused to think this could apply only to large corporations and not to the average Joe (I certainly didn’t); after all, how much greenhouse gases could realistically a person emit?
I always considered myself to be a fairly low-carbon human being, at least based on my average peer group made of wealthy Westerners. I don’t own a car, I commute by public transport or, as the Latins would say, pedibus calcantibus; my purchases of cheap cotton clothes are limited to the absolute necessary, which is to say that most of my T-shirts have witnessed at least two World Cups; and my consumption of red meat has steadily declined. Yes, there’s the flying but… come on, how much can that amount to?
Forty point something tons for 2018.
Forty point something tons, or 40.19 if you feel numerically inclined, is more or less equivalent to the weight of an average adult sperm whale. Or 7 African elephants. Or, if you’re struggling to figure them out, 350 LeBron Jameses.
To quote very freely from Led Zeppelin, that’s a lotta fartin’.
How did I get to that? Well, by entering the flights made last year in climatecare.org’s carbon calculator. Climatecare is an Oxford-based NGO that offers carbon offsetting services not just to large corporations but, as I found out, to the average Joe too. All that one needs to do is to plonk in the figures of one’s flying, including classes of travel, and voilà the cost is returned at a fee of £7.50 per ton, or $9.67.
My 40.19 tons have been the result of 42 flight and have costed me, to offset, £301 and change. For those of you who use dollars, that’s 388 pieces with George Washington printed on it, which Climatecare will invest in projects aimed at reducing the footprint of day-to-day activities in developing nations. What I’ve learnt is that the plushier the seat, the higher the emissions. For instance a London-Tashkent return flight in economy accounted for 1.4 tons of the bad stuff, whilst a London-JFK in Business – for a flight of similar duration – emitted 4.41 tons. First is even worse.
Most of these flights have been done for work; should I have paid to offset them? My answer, ultimately, is yes. It was my bum on those seats and, ultimately, I agreed to go there. Following orders didn’t work at Nuremberg and won’t cut it here too. And, at the end of the day, it’s a nice feeling, the one of being as carbon neutral as one possibly can.