Offsetting your carbon footprint, what’s the deal?

Offsetting carbon footprint

Many conscious travellers are currently turning towards offsetting their carbon footprint while travelling by airplane. But can you truly compensate for your flight or is it just a way to offset your guilt? The answer is not as easy as it may seem. There are many different ways to offset your carbon footprint and some are definitely better than others. Find out more below.

Offsetting schemes of airline companies
It turns out that the offsetting schemes of airline companies are actually far from the best option. Even though it is easy to book, this hardly compensates for the true impact of your flight. It has been revealed that those prices for ‘offsetting’ are based on the consumer’s willingness to pay for it and have nothing to do with actual compensation. This also explains why offsetting via the airline company can be as cheap as 11 euros for a flight from Amsterdam to Bangkok. We think we did a good job, the airline makes some extra money (we do not really know what happens with the money) and nothing changes really. 

Calculate the impact yourself
So how can we then offset the impact of our flight? The Social Reporter explains that the best way to offset your carbon footprint is to calculate the impact per trip yourself and then donate to a project that compensates an equivalent of that. There are several good places to calculate the impact, for example via Ecopassenger.org for European destinations. By inserting the place you are travelling from and to, Eco Passenger calculates the carbon footprints for travelling by train, car, and airplane. Another good option is Klimaatwijs op Reis, from Milieucentraal.nl, a Dutch website that calculates the whole impact of your trip, including accommodation and activities. It takes a bit longer to answer all the questions but in addition to showing the carbon footprint, it also gives you advise on how to make the trip more sustainable. An example of a very basic calculator that covers all destinations worldwide is Carbonfootprint.com. Entering the same flight from Amsterdam to Bangkok shows that this equals 2.54 tons of CO2*.

*Calculations on the amount of CO2 differ amongst websites as it largely depends on the type of aircraft, airline company, fuel efficiency, etc.

Good compensation projects
The only question that remains now, is where and how to compensate for your flights. Online you can find many different projects that claim to offset your footprint, but again, some options are better than others. As a rule of thumb, you can look at the type of certification the projects have. There are a few of those and I learned that in general verification tends to be higher in Europe based institutes, hence I can recommend Plan Vivo. This organisation invests in projects in Africa, Asia, and South America to reduce carbon emissions. Other projects where you can directly buy trees (1 tree takes up 7kg of CO2 per year) that are planted on your behalf are for example Trees For All and Forests Without Frontiers. If you are looking for an easy way to offset without any calculations, Atmosfair is a reliable place to go to. Entering the flight from Amsterdam to Bangkok now shows that it costs 143 euros to compensate. According to Forest without Frontiers, we would need to plant 36 trees to compensate for this trip, which equals around 84 euros. Compared to the eleven euros of the airline company, this is then turning out to be the true and fair price of compensating for your flight.

Can we really fly sustainably?
What I find a bit strange about these projects is that we are compensating elsewhere, so we reduce carbon footprints in countries where people are not nearly producing as much output as we are, in order for us to be able to keep on flying. Because we are not able to give up certain things (we could for example also compensate but not eating meat for two years, or not using a car for one and a half years), we are moving the compensation to other countries. The second argument against offsetting is that it is always in the future and the actual impact of the flight is not negated. Trees need time to grow, projects need to be developed and implemented and so it takes a while before your flight is compensated for. Moreover, we cannot ever plant as many trees as would be needed to compensate for all flights. 

In the end, compensating your footprint is not enough, all of these things need to be done. We need to plant those trees, we should develop those projects ánd we need to fly less. That is if we want to combat climate change. Flying neutral is not good enough anymore if we want to turn things around. However, to end on a positive note, doing something is better than nothing. I understand that it is not likely that we will all stop flying completely soon. And neither will I. What we can do, however, is to try and fly less. And when we do fly, choose for a certified offsetting program that actually does compensate your carbon footprint. In the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for advanced technology solutions that will enable us to travel sustainable no matter the distance or our choice of transportation.

How to find Airbnb’s that are actually based on home sharing

To Airbnb or not to Airbnb?  It often seems Airbnb is the ultimate bad guy when it comes to tourism in cities. But I would like to show that it is possible to stay in an Airbnb and be a ‘good’ tourist. The question we thus should be asking is not whether to use Airbnb or not, but it should be how to Airbnb responsibly.  In this article, I will tell you how you can find those Airbnb’s that are actually local (and therefore responsible) and usually more fun as well. 

What are the issues with Airbnb?
Why should you consider to Airbnb responsible in the first place?  If there is one thing I learned from my research, is that Airbnb is not only the picture-perfect that they portray. Yes, Airbnb apartments are often cheaper and easy to book through the platform but there are also some issues that come along with it. The issues mostly lay with the Airbnb apartments that are being operated commercially. Airbnb advocates that their platform helps local families make some extra money, but actually the majority of houses on Airbnb are not based on the home-sharing principle. This is a problem because those apartments often do not have the right permits to become vacation apartments. With the set-up of Airbnb, many apartments are now operating illegally as a tourist flat. Because it is much more profitable to rent out an apartment to tourists than to regular tenants who stay for a longer period of time, many investors have started buying up houses to rent them out on Airbnb, making big money out of it. This takes houses off the market for people who are looking for housing and drives up rental prices making cities and towns more unaffordable for those who live there.

The fun of actual home sharing
Investors are most likely out there to make easy money. Finding a fun a nice looking Airbnb apartment is therefore not very likely with those players involved. Apartments will meet basic requirements but little extra efforts will be made to make the place look cozy. What is more is that it will not even be close to the promised home-sharing experience of Airbnb, since nobody ever lives there. But home-sharing can be so much fun. For example, In July I stayed in a house in Venice that belongs to an elderly woman. In the spare room of her house she’d been welcoming guests during the summer for three years now. This way she is making some extra income and meeting people from around the world while I felt as if I was visiting my Italian grandmother.

When is Airbnb based on actual home-sharing?
There are actually many more of these Airbnb’s, but the question is how to figure out if they are based on actual home-sharing. The local aspect of an Airbnb plays a big role in home-sharing. Actual home-sharing can be done by either renting out a private room while the owner is there or, if you prefer a bit more privacy, by renting out an entire home when the owner is away (on vacation for example). By using Airbnb this way your stay will be a lot more personal and you also know that you are not contributing to the issues related to many other Airbnb apartments. But how do you know which apartment is based on actual home-sharing and which is just another impersonal (and possibly illegal) tourist apartment?

Tips for choosing local and fun Airbnb’s
When it comes to choosing an Airbnb responsibly, there are numerous things that you can pay attention to, from simply taking a look at the pictures to investigating the host. Here are some tips to make your search a little easier:
1. Scroll through the pictures-  does the place look somewhat like what you would expect from a personal apartment? Are there any personal items like books and pictures? Are there plants (that need to be kept alive)? Is there a proper kitchen? Most people like to have a somewhat homy feel to their apartment so if these things are not present, chances are that nobody lives in the place.
2. Scan the reviews – 
did other people describe being in touch with the host like getting local recommendations or being served breakfast? If this is the case people will usually write something about that. How is check-in arranged? If you need to use a lock-box instead of being welcomed by an actual person, it is quite probable that your stay will be less personal.
3. Have a look at the type of advertisement – is the apartment listed as ‘instant book’? Personally, I would like to know who’s coming and when before accepting so this is probably another indicator that you will not stay in a local Airbnb. Another thing to take into account is the number of listings a host has. You can see this by clicking on the host’s profile. If there are multiple (and all look similar) you know you are most likely dealing with a commercial operator.

Add to the experience yourself – keep it personal
Hopefully, these tips will help you find cool and local home-sharing options when booking an Airbnb from now on as well. Keep in mind though, if you want a personal experience, make sure to contribute to this yourself as well. When you book, do not treat the owner as if it were a hotel service but write a personal message and respect the owner and the rules. Is home-sharing not for you? Sure, but then make sure to book your apartment through a website that offers legal tourist apartments so your preferences do not disrupt the lives of people living in cities and other destinations too much. No matter our choices and preferences, this way we can all be responsible travellers!

The impact of community-based tourism in Kyrgyzstan

CBT

Almost three years have passed since I first heard about Kyrgyzstan and spent six weeks on promoting the country as a tourist destination. Ever since then, I have been in conflict about this. Because this country is beautiful and unspoiled, but what happens if we start promoting it? Can it then remain unspoiled? And would more tourists do any good to the local people? Basically,  I was and still am wondering, how can tourism develop sustainably and can you contribute to that as a traveller?

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A guide to sustainable souvenirs in Sri Lanka

Sustainable souvenirs Sri Lanka

When I’m at home, I usually spend quite some time on choosing what to buy and where to buy it, taking into account the material, production process and place and impact on the environment. But I realized when I’m on vacation I just love buying souvenirs and I’m way less mindful about the sustainability of the gifts I buy.  This time I  made the effort to buy more responsibly because I wanted to make sure that the things I bought would actually benefit local people. Here you find the result: a short guide to ethical and mostly sustainable souvenirs in Sri Lanka plus some general tips for buying more responsible on vacation! Continue reading “A guide to sustainable souvenirs in Sri Lanka”

How to travel responsibly in Sri Lanka

Responsible Travelling

Where do you book your accommodation when you travel? Where do you eat? And what activities do you do during your trip? These are all important questions to ask if you want to travel more responsibly and have an even more valuable travel experience. In this blog post I will tell you more about how I made my trip to Sri Lanka better by thinking about those questions. Apart from that it will make your travel experience more rewarding, it also makes you a more responsible traveller. How? Below I share some ideas with you on how to do so!

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The consequences of travelling like a local

Local Travelling

During the last decades, Berlin has become a popular tourist destination because of its ‘poor but sexy’ attitude. A city that lacks many interesting tourist sights but is famous for the creative and multicultural vibe, the graffiti and a crazy nightlife. Neighbourhoods such as Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain specifically have experienced a drastic increase in tourism because of this. People visit these types of neighbourhoods to have a local travel experience and to get a sense of the buzz going on in these parts of the city. Often Airbnb apartments are used for this to increase the feeling of locality even more. But how local is the experience still when travellers are almost taking over the neighbourhood? Continue reading “The consequences of travelling like a local”