Carbon Travel Guilt?

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Carbon Travel Guide

June is the time of year where I’m getting ready for my holiday and getting all my final checks done. The two wardens at Clophill Eco Lodges are both going on holiday this year, to mainland Europe, however the carbon-footprint of our travels differs greatly. My Italian holiday involves a 16-hour, 950-mile drive crossing the channel by train. Emily’s holiday in Majorca involves a 2-hour, 870-mile flight with 57-miles of driving either end of the airports.

I have to say these numbers don’t mean anything to me, when it comes to carbon footprint, so I found an online CO2 calculator to make these numbers more real. My Italian holiday produces 0.422 tonnes of CO2, each way. Does that mean anything? What does 0.422 tonnes of CO2 look like and what’s its impact on climate change? Research shows that to halt climate change all together, a person should produce 0.600 tonnes of CO2 in a year. Due to the journey being 1 car with three passengers, this value can be shared between the three of us, making my carbon footprint 0.281 tonnes.

Emily’s holiday to Majorca, however, produces 0.601 tonnes each (assuming the plane is full). This means that 1 return flight to Majorca already exceeds the recommended amount of CO2 production to halt climate change. So what can we do about this?

The News has been littered with the phrase Carbon Offsetting for a while now. Carbon Offsetting is the concept that an activity takes place somewhere else on the planet that absorbs an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide as that produced by your activity – making your activity ‘carbon neutral’. You might pay for this separately, or the company you travel with might be able to organise it for you.

Typically this means planting trees - an estimated 4 mature trees are required to remove one tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere, although other projects might also be included such as investing in clean energy. The projects that the money supports are chosen as they would not have happened without the money given. Carbon offsetting is a voluntary scheme you can sign up to, when flying (or doing other activities that emit carbon dioxide)This will mean that your flight is ‘carbon neutral’.

Only 50% of airlines provide an offsetting scheme and as little as 1% of passengers are using these schemes. If the airline you are flying with doesn’t run a scheme then you can go to other websites such as : or

On these website you can see what projects your donation will be used for and calculate exactly how much to donate depending on your CO2 emissions.

Is carbon offsetting really enough though? Are there other choices we can make, when travelling, to reduce our carbon footprint?

Carbon offsetting isn’t perfect –if/when the tree dies, for example, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere – so it’s not a panacea . Therefore, other choices can be made so reduce our carbon footprint instead.

During a flight, the most fuel is burnt during take off so taking a direct flight over a stopover will help minimise fuel consumption.

Once you’re at the airport, paying for a transfer (a bus or shuttle) from the airport to your hotel instead of getting a private transfer will decrease your carbon footprint as the mileage is shared between multiple people rather just yourself or your family.

When you’re at your hotel or accommodation, a way to keep your CO2 production down is to think about your towel usage. Leaving your towels out means they will get washed, this could happen everyday. A washing machine can produce in the region of 2.8kg of C02 with each wash so the footprint of your two-week holiday could increase by 39kg.

Be mindful about where you are buying your food from as supermarkets often import food where markets have food grown in the local area – decreasing the air miles of your food.

Have a great holiday and enjoy your holiday even more knowing you have taken some steps towards reducing your environmental impact.


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