When Beth Arnold of Longmont, Colorado, traveled with her family to the Bahamas last February, she wanted to enjoy her vacation, but she also was concerned about the environmental impact of her trip. "I believe strongly in minimizing my [carbon] footprint whenever possible, especially when I travel," Arnold says. She purchased MyClimate carbon offsets, which allowed her to neutralize the carbon dioxide her vacation travel had created by reinvesting her donation in solar panels installed in developing countries.
Arnold is not alone. More and more travelers are thinking about the environmental effects of their globe-trotting and are buying carbon offsets to balance things out. Meanwhile, major online travel agencies such as Expedia and Travelocity have followed smaller providers (led by adventure tour operators) to offer carbon offsets at the point of booking, giving new momentum to this trend.
Carbon offsetting dates back almost 20 years as an overall practice. Within the travel world, as Adventure Travel Trade Association Director & Editor Chris Doyle notes, the adventure travel industry has been at the forefront of attention to environmental and sustainability issues. Doyle says that "What we're observing and have been over the last two years in particular, based on Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and scientists speaking out all over the place, is that there is a push-pull going on. Scientists are talking about the dramatic effects of climate change and many celebrities are calling attention to it. At the same time, trade associations and marketing groups and general brands are also taking it on. Now, consumers are awakening to their personal impacts on global warming. Are they going to assume all of the costs associated with their impact? No. But do they want to share it with providers? Yes."
So just what are these offsets all about anyway?