Carbon offset: what is it and how does it work + offsetting with Gone West

(ENG only) Traveling is one of the things that I love doing the most. The excitement of exploring new places, getting to know new cultures, landscapes, foods. But it’s also something that can be very impactful environmentally speaking. Plane travel alone contributes to 2,5% of carbon dioxide gases and its effects are incredibly damaging. And this is why, after hearing about it a while back and making some little research, I decided to start offsetting. 

First things first, what does it mean “to offset”? Offset means to compensate for the emissions of carbon dioxide that happen as a result of industrial or other types of human activities and actions. To put it simply, by producing, consuming, moving around or just existing (and taking part into specific life’s activities or events like plane travel, car travel, weddings, concerts, conferences etc.) we do generate CO2 emissions. And offsetting means to compensate those emissions with the aim of lowering that carbon footprint or even going fully carbon neutral. 

How does offset work? It works with the financial support of specific projects that the environment will benefit from, like restore forests and plant more trees, update power plants and factories or increase the energy efficiency of buildings and transportation. Basically you decide to pay a fee to support these types of projects. 

In times in which the current environmental situation and climate change have (finally!!!) got more attention and become a topic that can no longer be ignored, more and more companies, organizations, collectives, activist groups and single individuals are trying to do their best to be more gentle on the planet, educate others and get as many people involved as possible. 

When it comes to lowering your environmental impact, a lot that can be done in our daily lives: eating less meat and dairy, traveling less by plane and car, adopting a more mindful approach to consumption etc. . You can read the full blog post here

Whilst I usually try to do my best to compensate for those CO2 emissions that, as I said, happen in the first place because I exist and do things, I wanted to go a step further and try to compensate for that thing that it is hard for me to completely avoid and sometimes even reduce: plane travel. I am an expact and have a steady job so, as much as I’d love to, I cannot rely just on train travel: distances are far to reach and don’t always have as much time off as I’d love to from work. And, let’s be honest, unfortunately trains are oftentimes a more expensive option: with the increasing availability and popularity of low cost airlines, traveling by plane is a faster, more affordable option for many out there, me included. But, as I made my recent travel to Spain to go on a yoga retreat, I made the commitment to start offsetting and compensate for those emissions that the round trip plane travel from Berlin to Alicante would have caused. The cool thing is that I ended up offsetting my life for an entire year instead, yay! 🙂 

Let me take a step back: when I attended the Berlin Travel Festival back in March, I stumbled upon the stand of an offsetting organization called Gone West. I had the chance to talk with one of their representatives and find out a bit more about offsetting and what they do. I already heard about carbon offset before but never got involved with it or done something about it, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to speak directly with someone who works in the field and to learn more about it. Gone West works as a tree planting company that tries to bring environmental and social benefits around the world, by creating green jobs and helping to establish, restore or preserve natural habitats. Their motto is “The world has gone west and we are doing something about it” (“gone west” = slang term used in the Liverpool area that means messed up, gone wrong). So what do they do? They basically help single individuals and companies offset their CO2 emissions by planting trees. One tree, through its lifetime, is able to absorb 1000kg of CO2 during photosynthesis and this is enough to counterbalance one month worth of emissions. (The CO2 will remain in the tree until it dies and decomposes. The wood can then be harvested and used so the CO2 won’t be released back into the atmosphere). So supporting such companies and projects and going carbon neutral can help reversing climate change. How cool is that? 🙂 

Human beings produce on average 12 tonnes of CO2 per year, so by supporting Gone West’s tree planting projects people and companies can purchase as many trees as necessary to balance the equation and go carbon neutral. Single individuals can offset their travels, offset their life (by purchasing a single tree or make monthly or yearly subscriptions) and companies can decide to get tailored solutions that will help them go carbon neutral. With every purchase of a tree, you will get a certificate and updates on where your tree(s) will be planted. All GW forests can be visited, as their trees all get planted on accessible land. They plant in different parts of the world and only plant trees that are native to that specific environment (non native trees can be bad for the local environment and eco system and its habitat). A carbon footprint calculator will soon be available on their website so you can directly calculate how big your average carbon footprint is and start offsetting accordingly. 

For sure offsetting itself won’t be the solution to the climate change problem, just like recycling is not the solution to the waste issue. Acting mindfully and trying to avoid and refuse what can be avoided and refused is the first most important step towards a more sustainable lifestyle and a lower, more gentle impact on the environment. It would be like going to the gym once or twice a week and still having a diet made of junk/processed food and carbonated drinks: it wouldn’t be the solution to a healthier lifestyle. However, carbon offset can be a very good thing to add to a more conscious lifestyle and a great way to take action to help reverse climate change. 

I hope this post gave you a little bit more information about carbon offset, what it is and how does it work, as well as a little insight about Gone West and the amazing work that it does. I originally wanted to purchase a single tree to just offset by trip to Spain and ended up purchasing a yearly subscription instead! For about 9 euros per month I can contribute to a cause that I gladly support and will do good to the planet. 

For further information you can visit: www.gonewest.com

Other useful links:

  • my blog post How to reduce your carbon footprint and your environmental impact 
  • Ecosia. You can use it as a search engine instead of Google and they use the revenue made from people’s internet searches (or more specifically from the ads that result from those searches) to plant trees all over the world. More than 60 million trees have been planted already. 
  • Organic Basics. This wardrobe basics Scandinavian brand recently decided to partner up with Chooose to completely offset their emissions. Chooose is an organisation that makes businesses and individuals carbon balanced by investing in UN verified or Gold Standard CO2 reducing projects in developing countries – like solar power in India and wind power in Turkey. For every order placed on their website, Organic Basics offsets one hundred kilos of CO2. Offsetting is performed through funding the Koru Wind Farm in Canakkale, Turkey. Customers can decide to offset their carbon footprint by purchasing climate credits directly on the Organic Basics website. The 100% of these climate credits proceeds will go to their partner and Chooose will then direct climate credit purchases towards CO2 reducing projects in developing countries.
  • 11 airlines that offer carbon offset programs (source: www.conserve-energy-future.com)
  • The traveler’s guide to carbon offsetting your flights (source: www.ontheluce.com) 

 

Remember that living more sustainably and giving your contribution doesn’t mean to aim for perfection or to do big crazy efforts. I always encourage people to do their best and to stay informed, making sure that they support support companies that are transparent and are trying to make a difference as much as possible. 

Please share this blog post with others. Let’s help the planet together. 

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Disclaimer: This post is NOT SPONSORED. However the links above are affiliate links. If you decide to offset your life and go carbon neutral, not only you will do something amazing for the planet but you will also help me support the work that I do as a content creator at no extra cost for you (I will earn a small commission for every purchase made through my unique links. Please note that I truly believe in  Gone West and its project and more than gladly support what they do and give them a shout out as one of their Green Ambassadors. The GW yearly subscription to go carbon neutral for a year was purchased with my own money).  

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