Air travel and carbon offsetting

An aircraft flying into the heart of the sunrise

The facts about air travel

  • Aeroplane engines burn fossil fuels, producing emissions such as carbon dioxide, the main cause of climate change
  • Air travel has more impact on greenhouse gases per trip than any other form of transport
  • Despite the development of more fuel-efficient aeroplane engines, the rapid growth of air travel contributes to increasing levels of aviation pollution
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that more than eight million people fly each day, and that this number will double by 2035.

The good news about air travel

As technology advances, our need to travel by plane is reduced. Teleconferences instead of face-to-face meetings, convenient public transport and sustainable approaches to car use can all help us avoid air travel as much as possible. When air travel is unavoidable, we have several options to minimise its impact, such as carbon offsetting.

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is the purchase of offset units to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases that cause climate change, which are emitted as a result of activities such as air travel. Offset units support projects that reduce or remove emissions from the atmosphere, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation. It is important to remember that you should make every effort to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions wherever possible before carbon offsetting to compensate for them. Offset credits should be purchased from accredited offset scheme providers.

In addition to offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, purchasing offset credits can:

  • support the habitat for animal and plant species
  • re-establish vegetation
  • generate employment where projects are undertaken
  • improve health and education for local people where projects are undertaken.

What is 'going carbon neutral'?

Going carbon neutral is a combination of reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, where possible, and using offset units to compensate for the remaining emissions to achieve net zero emissions – carbon neutrality.

Calculating carbon emissions

Many websites offer 'carbon calculators' that allow you to estimate the carbon emissions generated by activities such as air travel. You can then buy carbon offsets, either directly through a carbon offsetting organisation or through third parties such as airlines.

Top 5 tips for reducing your air travel footprint

1. Take a bus or train for longer trips

Travelling via public transport will benefit you and the environment in many ways. Travel within Victoria and interstate via public transport is convenient and comfortable and quicker than you might think (no airport commuting or waiting time). If flying is necessary, try to take public transport to and from the airport and to get around once you reach your destination.

2. Carpool

If public transport isn't possible, can you carpool with friends or colleagues to meetings or events? And, if flying is necessary, can you carpool to and from the airport?

3. Meet and catch up online

Why commute to a meeting at a regional, interstate or international office when you can save time and reduce emissions by attending from the convenience of your own home or local office? A range of videoconferencing tools are now available online, many at no cost for smaller meetings. It's even possible to attend conferences online. And while nothing can compensate for seeing family and friends in person, a regular video chat can help you feel more connected.

4. Tweak your travel

Reducing your air travel footprint doesn't mean giving up your holidays. Instead, think about taking trips closer to home, avoiding flights entirely wherever possible and choosing sustainable holiday options. Where flights are unavoidable, travel overland and use local public transport in the countries you visit. Research the airlines to find the newer, more fuel-efficient fleets, and take direct flights whenever possible, as these approaches will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And don't forget your feet and legs! Walking, trekking and cycling are wonderful ways to explore.

5. Carbon offset your flights

Buy carbon offset units to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases released as a result of your air travel. Offset units support projects that reduce or remove emissions from the atmosphere, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation. Offset credits should be purchased from accredited offset scheme providers.

Other ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Minimising your air travel and carbon offsetting your flights are not the only ways to reduce your 'carbon footprint' and take action against climate change.


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