Bit of an unusual post here, but this is one way you can reduce your carbon footprint (and guilt, sort of) caused by air travel. Planting trees (in the UK). I’m sharing this idea because I find that the major downside of being a frequent traveller is the huge negative impact it has on two things: my bank balance and my carbon footprint. The financial impact is way beyond salvage, but we can at least try to do something about the impact on our planet.
A couple of years ago, just after starting this blog actually, me and my other half bought a grove of trees to offset the carbon emissions we cause with our air travel. Every month since then, we’ve donated towards growing this little grove. Whenever I mention this to other people who travel/go on holiday a lot, they’ve been dead interested. And I think it’s important to at least try to travel in a greener and more ethical way. So I thought I’d write a post about it to share what I do. Hopefully regular readers won’t mind the slight diversion from my normal posts.
ANYWAY, if you travel a lot and do anything good to give back to the planet, let me know in the comments. I’m always up for trying to stop killing the earth.
(By the way, this post is in no way sponsored by the charity I do the trees through or anything. Other tree-planting charities are available!).
What is this tree-planting malarkey?
For the past few years, me and the other half have had a grove of trees with the charity Trees for Life.
Our personal grove’s name is Bobsy McGrove (Grovey McGroveface seemed too predictable, soz). Yes, you get to name it. We donate a set amount of money through Direct Debit to plant more trees in him every month. We worked out how much £ should cover the carbon emissions we rack up from all our plane journeys to decide the amount.
The grove is based in Scotland, where the Caledonian Forest used to be a big deal. In fact, the Caledonian Forest used to cover most of Scotland and even now the surviving portion it is still an important ecosystem and home for native wildlife, including my personal favourite fluffers: red squirrels. Being from Formby originally, I’m all about the red squirrels.
But the forest is in a right state compared with how it was and how it should be. So it needs looking after if it’s to survive and thrive. That’s what the charity (Trees for Life) is trying to resolve. They’re doing three main things:
- Working to naturally regenerate the existing trees, by fencing out deer because those idiots will eat and ruin just about everything (reminds me of me TBH).
- Planting new, native trees in the straggly/empty patches.
- Weeding out (no pun intended) non-native trees and invasive shrubs so that the original ones can do better.
And if they do all of that over a sustained period of time, the forest will do well and we can all welcome our new red squirrel overlords.
How can you work out your carbon footprint from flights and how many trees will offset it?
So if you want to get in on the tree-planting action, you need to work out how many trees you owe our poor planet.
There are different calculators available online. I used this one. It allows you to enter up to three flights, so if you do more than this in a year, you can work out the extra and manually add it on.
I usually fly three or four times a year. For example, last year I had one long-haul return to Japan and then two shorter European flights to Ljubljana/Zagreb and Malta. Our other holidays were just to Scotland by train (which you can add on too, if you want). This is pretty representative of a typical year for me, possibly with one more short-haul flight. It usually works out at just under three tonnes of C02.
Trees for Life worked out that around six trees will offset one tonne of C02, so that’s at least 18 trees needed per year just for my flights. I also personally choose to add on enough trees to offset my use of electricity, gas, trains, buses, etc.
Does planting trees actually make up for the horrific damage we’re doing to the planet every day with all of our actions, not just flights? No. But it’s better than not doing it.
How do you set up your own grove of trees to offset the carbon footprint?
You can register on Trees for Life and make your own tree grove here. Then, you just need to set up a monthly Direct Debit payment. It’s all v straightforward.
Obviously, you can also add more trees/money towards it if you have a particularly travel-heavy period. Other people can also donate to it, which is a nice idea as a charity donation when don’t want actual presents for weddings/birthdays/divorce parties. Etc.
You can even donate to someone else’s if you don’t want to start your own one. It all goes into the same forest pot.
What other things can you do to reduce the impact of air travel?
Obviously the main thing is to fly less or avoid it all together. But if you still want to fly, you can be kind to the environment in other ways, when travelling or when at home.
We all know what we should do really don’t we, but it’s amazing how many people still don’t. Maybe I should write a whole blog post on it, but for now here are some of my tips…
- Don’t drive. If you don’t live somewhere with decent public transport, you could use lift-sharing apps. I live in a well-connected area so walk as much as I can, walk and get the train to work every day, and use trains/trams/buses for most UK-based trips.
- Take your own reusable water bottle on the plane and on holiday in general. Say no to those bloody plastic cups they try to hand out on planes and avoid buying loads of little plastic water bottles when you’re away.
- Also say no to those plastic-wrapped blankets and headphones provided on long-haul flights. Bring your own giant scarf and better headphones.
- Cut down on/cut out meat and dairy. Even better, stick to a vegan/plant-based diet. I do this most of the time and it’s brilliant in so many ways.
- Stick to direct flights to your destination (take-off and landing do the most damage).
- Do all the stuff you know you should at home – recycling, energy-saving lightbulbs, composting, switch to green energy, use a Mooncup, plan your meals to avoid waste… you know all these things I’m sure.
- Take a few tote bags away with you. Roll them up, tie them with hair bobbles and stick them at the bottom of your daytime bag/backpack. Then you’re not stuck with resorting to plastic bags when you inevitably make a few cheeky purchases throughout the day. If you don’t end up buying anything on your trip, you can shove your dirty laundry in them to separate it from clean stuff in your suitcase (if this kind of thing interests you, have a look at my post on how to pack a suitcase).
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