Why you need carbon offsets for travel - Green Indy Blog

Why you really, really need to buy carbon offsets for travel (and how to do it)

This past week I took a loooooong (emphasis on long) road trip from Indianapolis to Maine. The round trip was almost 2000 miles!

It was great to see my family, but I was definitely concerned about how wasteful the trip had been from an environmental standpoint. After mulling it over (did I mention I had a lot of time to think on this long drive?!) I decided to look into purchasing a carbon offset to compensate for the 17+ hours worth of fossil fuel emissions I’d put into the world!

Thankfully, the process wasn’t as difficult as it had initially appeared!

So what are carbon offsets?

You’ve all heard of carbon footprints, right? Basically, the idea that all the stuff we use/consume that’s made with fossil fuels has a certain carbon emission associated with it. The total of all those things is your carbon footprint.

To cancel out the negative effects of carbon emission, individuals and businesses can purchase carbon offsets. An organization calculates the cost of your carbon emission and you pay the monetary equivalent.

Then, that money is put toward an existing project that’s reducing greenhouse emissions such as saving forests from destruction, funding alternative energy sources, enhancing clean water initiatives, and more.

Zero Waste Road Trip

How do I buy carbon offsets?

Before you buy, there are a couple things to consider. I really liked this article which did a great job laying out the important bits when choosing where to buy from.

The essential idea is you need to ensure you’re buying a legit carbon offset. The steps:

  • is the offset real? ie. is there a real person/project this money will be going towards or is it a vague, general idea?
  • is the offset verifiable and enforceable? ie. has a third party ensured that the situation is indeed real and that there will be penalties if the money is used improperly?
  • is the offset permanent? ie. if the offset saves a swath of forest for six months but the owner later sells it, the offset was clearly ineffective.

How can you do all that? Luckily, it’s pretty easy. The Climate Action Reserve has a list of options for individuals and organizations alike. You can see the full list by clicking through below:

CRT Marketplace

What did I do?

I ended up going with Native Energy because they were listed on the Climate Action Reserve list, took individual payments, and have a number of super handy calculators that helped me figure out what I owed for my trip. Cool Effect is also a great resource to see exactly where your money’s going!

Using their travel calculator, it estimated I had created 2 tons of CO2 from Indianapolis to Maine and back again.

The total cost of my carbon offset? Just $28.


I only wish that Native Energy could be a bit more specific about where my money was going (it would be interesting to know what project exactly it would be going toward), but other than that the process was quick, easy, and completely satisfying.

In the future, I’m planning to calculate my carbon footprint and pay towards that. First, though, I’m going to try to reduce my footprint as much as possible!

Have you ever purchased a carbon offset for your carbon footprint or for travel? Which company did you end up using?

Buy carbon offsets for travel - Green Indy Blog
Buy carbon offsets for travel - Green Indy Blog


  1. Nice! My company uses Native Energy for our carbon offsets. At the corporate level, you get to choose your project from a list of several options. I admit I’ve never offset my personal travel before, but you’ve inspired me to do it for my next trip!

  2. It’s crazy how ‘cheap’ it actually is to offset. I calculate and do it for my entire year’s worth of CO2, it normally just adds up to a few hundred dollars. For a whole year!
    I use standfortrees.org, I love how simple it is, and Prince Ea made a pretty compelling video… LOL. Also KLM.com has options to compensate thru their website when I buy a ticket so I do that too. They invest that money into research for biofuels that can replace fossils (which isn’t exactly offsetting but a good initiative!) Cheers!

    1. That’s really great Anna! Standfortrees.org looks great – will definitely be looking more into then in the future! Thank you for all the tips!

  3. How fascinating! I’m definitely going to look into this for our next trip. I bet you had a lovely time on your road trip and now you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Thanks for sharing on the #WasteLessWednesday Blog Hop!

  4. I have to commend you for your diligent efforts to living a eco-friendly and environmentally lifestyle. Your information was very informative and interesting. Actually we don’t travel except locally when needed such as a doctor appt – get food. Actually most of our other shopping we do on line. Congratulations on being featured on #WasteLessWednesday blog hop. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you so much, Marla! I’m glad you’re able to stay close to home – a really great way of reducing your footprint if it’s possible for you!

Leave a Reply