Offset Your Travel Footprint

1 by Guest Contributor

Green plane

Guest post by Jenna Lee Smith

Obviously the easiest way to “travel green” is to not travel at all and, instead, to indulge what has become popularly known as the “staycation.”

Sometimes, though, you have to get out of dodge. After all, if you have built up miles and points you should click here to learn how to use them. The good news is that even when you travel thousands of miles away, you can still go “green.” Here’s how:

First: Figure out the Carbon Footprint of Your Trip

How do you do this? If you’re driving, it’s pretty easy: you can calculate the mileage/efficiency of your vehicle to come up with a number. If you’re flying (particularly if you’re traveling abroad) this is more complicated. You have to consider the make, model, size, and weight of the plane as well as how far you’re traveling, the type of fuel the plane uses, etc. It’s probably better to settle for a basic estimate (you can get a flight footprint estimate at

It doesn’t stop there. You’ll also want to track the carbon footprint of everything that you do while you travel. Log what you eat, where it comes from (if possible), how much electricity you use, how you get from place to place (and the distance traveled each time, even when walking). This can get complicated very quickly. If you’re okay with a basic estimate, you can use the calculator at Nature.Org to get a rough idea of your trip’s carbon footprint.

Second: Reduce that Number!

Start by flying only with airlines that have a carbon offset program. These are companies that do things like planting trees, environmental cleanups, funding eco-friendly energy research, etc.

Stay only in green hotels. Look for the really green hotels and resorts. Any hotel can switch from incandescent to CFLs. Look for results that have incorporated LED lights, tankless water heaters, on site veggie and herb gardens, gyms that harness the power of equipment and use it to power the resort, etc.

Travel as green as possible yourself: solar chargers, reusable water bottles, water clocks, eating only local food, get around on foot or bicycle as much as possible, etc.

The lower you can get your number the better.

Third: Make It Up to Mother Nature

Even after you take measures to work with sustainable companies to leave as little footprint on your trip as possible, there will still probably be some carbon that you’ll want to offset. So how do you do this?

1. Donate money to

The money goes to fund eco-friendly and improving projects. The site has a handy calculator that you can use to figure out how much you should send in and their numbers are very affordable. For example, to offset a roundtrip flight for one person from Seattle to Honolulu, you would donate $9.96 to

2. Plant Trees

Trees take in carbon dioxide and put out oxygen. They help scrub pollutants from the air. Basically, trees are really good and planting them is always a good thing for the environment. You probably don’t want to just go around planting trees willy nilly though. Call your local Forestry Service department to find out when the next community tree planting day will be and sign up to participate. You can also donate money to a bunch of different organizations online and have them plant trees for you.

You can also take extra steps at home to reduce your current carbon footprint and help offset the carbon your trip produced.

What are some of the things you’ve done to help carbon “neutralize” vacations you’ve taken in the past?

Photo: Some rights reserved by kevin dooley

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