Focusing on the Right Stuff
Kiwis love our big outdoors. We also love to travel the world. That love of travel is leading to some big carbon emissions.
Over the past year I've been running sustainability workshops where participants calculate their carbon footprints. The aim is to empower people to identify where their carbon emissions lie and to then work out what they can do to make the most difference. Most people seem genuinely concerned about the state of our environment and climate change. They are often not clear about where they personally can make the biggest difference. This is why I suggest that all New Zealanders (businesses, organisations, families and individuals), calculate their carbon footprint. Once you've measured it, it is a lot easier to identify where you can make the biggest impact.
Food, Home & Travel
Everyone is a little different but in these workshops there are three predictable outcomes. One person will have a massive food footprint, one will have a really energy inefficient home, and the other will have clocked up big air miles on holidays or business trips.
Buying more local, seasonal food and eating less meat and dairy seems pretty achievable to most people - the health benefits alone are often enough to drive these changes. Those living in cold drafty kiwi homes are usually planning for insulation and energy efficient home heating improvements. These are achievable changes for most people. The most resistant to reducing their footprint are usually those who love to travel. For many people it is the one big thing they are really looking forward to, or it is considered a necessity with aging parents, children or business interests overseas.
The average carbon footprint for New Zealanders
is 7.645 tonnes pa.
7.645 tonnes might seem pretty respectable compared to other countries. But this is well in excess of the 1 tonne per person that Bioregional is suggesting as a maximum to stay below 2 degrees of warming. Auckland Council is targeting a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2040, under its Low Carbon Action Plan, and has a slightly less challenging carbon emissions target of 3 tonnes per person pa. This means that most kiwis need to make changes which will reduce their carbon emissions substantially. With the cost of air travel being low there is little financial incentive to reduce this.
Calculate Your Carbon Emissions
If you are concerned about climate change and planning to travel you should check out the impacts first. Calculate your flight distance using the calculator above then punch the resulting kms traveled into Enviro-Mark's Travel and Tourism Carbon Calculator.
A return flight to London from Auckland can emit up to 7 tonnes of CO2, and a Wellington to Auckland return trip 0.276 tonnes.
As a result a low carbon future, with reduced per capita carbon emissions, is going to require that we travel much less frequently and that when we do travel we choose the most sustainable options available.
Stay at Home or Think Big When Offsetting
If the amount of carbon emitted from your planned air travel doesn't shock you into staying at home, or skyping that next meeting in Wellington, you can choose to offset your travel (Enviro-Mark, many airlines and Million Metres of Stream all offer options). An offset is definitely not the perfect solution. The impact of your carbon emissions from flying will be immediate whereas your investment in a carbon credit - which invests into a carbon sink like native forest revegetation or renewable energy like windfarms - will have much slower benefits. It will make a difference though. And for this reason, if you are unable to avoid air travel, I recommend that you do offset, and ideally retire the units so that they cannot be on-sold.
You should also THINK BIG when buying your offsets, which are currently set at about $25 a tonne. $100 per tonne is considered a much fairer level of offset investment, so consider quadrupling your payment to pay a fairer share of the full cost of carbon emissions resulting from your air travel.
Click the links above to measure or offset your air travel footprint now.
My name is Carolyn Cox, I'm the founder of Green Businesss HQ.
I help businesses develop sustainability strategies, action plans and provide sustainability advice for businesses, industry sectors, education providers, and communities.