The evidence has long been clear and startlingly negative about how humans are affecting the climate of Earth. It’s also really clear that vehicle engine combustion also produces greenhouse gases that contribute to this. The kinds of vehicles we use on our road trips account for over 10% of all the greenhouse gases Australia produces.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we should feel guilty about going on road trips, because there are a number of ways to reduce your impact. Here we’ll take a look at this, by exploring how you can carbon offset your home and road trip lifestyle.
What Do Carbon Emissions Actually Do to the Environment?
The big emission produced by vehicles is carbon in forms of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, but vehicles also produce nitrous oxide and methane. These are collectively known as Greenhouse gases and they are responsible for trapping the sun’s heat inside our atmosphere, instead of allowing that reflected heat to be ejected into space.
This is global warming – and it’s a self-perpetuating and worsening process which will, sooner than most realise, become unable to be fixed or even stabilised by our efforts. This will lead to an increase in average temperature the world over of a few degrees, plus various localised regions of massive temperature increases, ocean acidity increases, unpredictable weather and more and worse storms throughout the world. This will lead to massive wildlife and plant extinction events, humanitarian disasters and loss of human life. It’s happening already. It’s grim, but it’s real. Really real.
What is Carbon Offsetting?
Carbon off setting is basically a trade-off. You produce your carbon emissions and give your monetary support of projects that recapture your equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. This is done through a purchase through an independent third-party organisation that has partnered with regional farmers and set up carbon off setting projects, such as re-foresting of high carbon-sequestering native trees, protecting native habitats and regenerating native forests – all of which meet rigorous self-designed or government standards for design, reporting, as well as verification and certification.
The less you drive, the less your emissions, so the less you’d need to spend to offset those emissions. But as a road tripper, you’re potentially using your vehicle more than the average person – so this means the offset needed is greater.
The hard monetary cost of current recapture programs is not very much for the benefit you get. And even though it’s not overly expensive to though when you do the maths, road travel is much, much better than plane travel and it’s not all about hard money transferring to offset it, as you’ll see below.
How Do I Do It?
There are a few Australian companies that provide a heap of information, along with a complete set up for offsetting your carbon footprint for your lifestyle. They have pre-calculated what typical personal and vehicle carbon outputs are for a variety of activities, lifestyles and vehicles and facilitate the financial payment you’re making to offset that.
Carbon Positive Australia
Carbon Positive Australia is a charity based in Perth which is designed to get people and organisations together to take practical action such as planting trees and working with regional farmers.
They offer a wonderfully helpful page for those looking for pre-calculated offset options for many different types of activities, such as food and drink, domestic use and vehicle use.
Another option, Go Neutral, is an arm of GreenCollar and was designed to provide nature-based solutions to help businesses and individuals to easily offset their carbon.
Working with environmental stakeholders across Australia and the world, to also improve water quality and biodiversity as an essential part of this. With very simple plans that allow you to self-select your offset requirements for your vehicle, you can very quickly make a difference.
Ecologi and Sprout
We use Ecologi and Sprout as a simple way to help offset our own business' carbon footprint through an application in our own web platform that enables us to pay for a new tree to be planted with each product order we get. This makes a small difference for just one order but with many hundreds, that's a big impact. Ecologi is also offered to the public, where you can buy the planting of a certain number of trees as you see fit and this reforestation is being done in well-selected, professionally supervised and certified ways, using high carbon-capture plantlife.
What Else Can You Do to Reduce Your Footprint?
So, it’s important to note that offsetting doesn’t actually directly reduce your carbon output – it just attempts to pulls that equivalent carbon back out of the atmosphere – to become carbon neutral. It follows that if you also reduce your carbon producing activities as well as offset them, you can become carbon positive, which is really what we need.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are a very front-of-mind way to minimise the carbon output of a road tripper. To be clear, in Australia much of the electricity that is used to recharge EVs is generated from coal. So, it’s still a problem then, but EVs are certainly much cleaner than using combustion engines, which are being bought up here in ever larger sizes too.
Unfortunately, Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world on EV purchases. We do have our own set of unique problems that lead to low uptake, but these are being addressed through technology improvements, largely related to vehicle range, charging station availability and ambient operating temperatures.
EV and Sustainable Tehnology Investment
To go one step further than buying an EV, we could also help by investing in the small number of businesses pushing development of such technologies, the manufacture or import of EVs themselves, the proliferation of charging stations or lobbying for tax rebates and other incentives.
Also, we can help investment in the alternatives to oil, gas and coal, such as solar, wind and wave, so that the initial charging source is made from renewables rather than non-renewables.
Consider Your Transport Options
There are a number of other daily things we can do to try to become carbon positive, whether at home or on vacation. For a start, just drive less. Trains and buses are running anyway, so can you use public transport to get around instead?
When you’re on the road, camping or glamping is a great option to reduce your footprint, and if you want to stay in something fancier, choose a hotel that’s committed to environmentally sustainable practices, such as low wattage lighting, planned natural lighting, low air conditioner usage and keeping their bar fridges off unless they have guests.
If you’re a meat eater, you could also consider adopting a less meat-based diet and checking out some of the plant-based meat alternatives that are becoming more and more available, or more traditional vegie recipes. This could start with just skipping the meat portion in a couple of meals. The carbon footprint of raising and keeping our typical meat sources are far, far greater than plant-based sources, due to land clearing, methane production and their own food sources.
If you need to fly to an initial destination to start your road trip, see if you can get a non-stop route, rather than a flight with unnecessary legs. Plane flights are an enormous source of carbon pollution, but thankfully the carriers are starting to get the point about offsetting as well now. So go with a carrier that supports carbon offsetting regeneration projects with a scheme that you can easily opt into at checkout, such as the Qantas’ “Fly Carbon Neutral”, now one of the largest offsetting programs of any airline in the world.
Given the minimal cost to offset their flight in the Qantas booking page, we have, for a long time thought it inexcusable for a person to skip it like it’s some kind of scammy extra way for the company to get money from them. It’s a tiny cost for us for such a big, positive outcome.
Once you’re at your destination starting point, opt for the hybrid, electric car (or bicycle for local travel) to get around.
Can it Even Make a Difference?
We are staunch believers of the maxim “If you care, act like it.” We hope that many other people also think this way. At the end of the day, we try to live by the idea that when we have the option, we should always do the thing that, if everyone did it, the world would be better for it. In the alternative, there are lots of totally self-serving people around, eventually the downsides of living selfishly will be made abundantly clear for all of us.
But about 72% of all carbon emissions come from households – not from industry. So every chance we get to make even a little difference to the environment should be grabbed at, as it means that one positive product choice will replace one that would make things worse. For one person, this directly helps the environment in a small way, but also has a run-on effect to assist the supply chains that are working to make a difference. Now imagine if everyone did it.