Airline Offsets Balance the Carbon Scales

by  Molly Fergus | Apr 22, 2010
Plane in the sky
Plane in the sky / undefinedundefined/iStock

Unless you’re running across the country à la Forest Gump, traveling can induce a certain amount of green guilt. Cars burn through gas; cruise ships generate up to 11 million gallons of wastewater each day; and air travel spews greenhouse gases into the sky. Happily, many domestic airlines now sponsor carbon offset programs, which let passengers calculate their carbon footprint and tack a small charge onto plane tickets to neutralize the journey’s impact on the earth. The offsets cost as little as $3, depending on the flight’s length, and support valuable emissions reduction projects, such as planting trees in Louisiana or funding projects that reduce methane levels in landfills across the U.S. To shrink your footprint, scan our roundup of stateside offset programs before booking your next flight.

American Airlines
American teams up with BeGreen, which sells offsets in $14 chunks. The money from each purchase supports renewable energy resources, and AAdvantage members score up to 10 miles per dollar on purchases.

Delta Air Lines
Delta pioneered domestic carbon offset programs in 2007, and its current work with The Nature Conservancy encourages flyers to fund environmental projects around the world. Today through May 22, Delta will match all carbon offset donations made through The Nature Conservancy, up to $25,000.

JetBlue Airways
JetBlue’s program through supports three U.S. emissions reduction efforts: a wind farm in Wingate, Texas; a waste management project in Rodam, N.Y.; and a reforestation effort in the Tensas River Valley in Louisiana. Offsets start at $5 for flights shorter than 2,500 miles.

United Airlines
Like Continental, United prefers the Sustainable Travel International program, which lets passengers choose the projects they want to fund. Offsets for a round-trip flight from Chicago to New York cost between $4 and $8.

Virgin America
Virgin America also works with, but it skips tree-planting in favor of two projects that fund truck stop electrification and dairy farm biodigesters. Offsets start at $5 for flights shorter than 2,500 miles.

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