Website Allows You to Reduce Environmental Footprint

My friends and I like to travel. And yet, we also like to reduce our footprint on the environment. And really, the two things are so contradictory. Every time we step onto an airplane, we are doing inestimable damage to the environment. What to do?

Back in May Air Canada announced a carbon off-set program called Zerofootprint. The program has a website where you can submit your flight information, and using information it has on record for Air Canada’s planes, it calculates how much it would cost to plant trees to off-set your carbon usage: Zerofootprint calculator. Now when you book a flight, an option pops up to go to this web page and make a contribution toward tree planting.

Carbon Off-set

Does it really work? Is this sufficient for actually off-setting the carbon we are using and damage we are doing to the environment, not just easing our guilt? I spoke with another friend of mine who is probably the smartest environmentalist I know. Her take is that planting trees is helpful, but it is not an immediate solution. By the time the trees grow and are able to off-set all that carbon, our planet may be too far-gone for it to be helpful. Should I therefore not take part in this program, I asked her. Her reply was that it is a start, and it is better to take part than not. It is better by far, however, to re-think flights. For short distances such as between Toronto and Ottawa or Toronto and Montreal, train would be a better way to go.

So, I wonder if I will be able to limit myself on flights (one a year?). I certainly like the train as an option, and wonder how I might use this option more often.

October 15, 2007 is Blog Action Day.


  1. Connie, you might also be interested in another option, the Westjet partnership with Offsetters Carbon Neutral Society, for occasions when you do need to fly. If a flight is booked through the referral feature on the Offsetters site, the cost of the ticket is the same to the passenger as if booked through Westjet directly, and Westjet makes a contribution in the amount of the calculated offset for the trip (e.g. $20 for Toronto to Edmonton return). As for what they do with the offsets, Offsetters describes its projects this way:

    For this reason, all Offsetters funds are invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that would not have taken place without our involvement.

    (I’m nothing near an expert on the issue, but I agree with both your points: if the train is an available option then take it, and it seems better to take part in this kind of initiative than not.)

  2. Hi Kim: Thanks! Have you tried booking through the Offsetters site yet?

  3. Hi Connie (and others who are interested): Yes, I have done so, and the process is seamless. There is a referral/redirect link on the Offsetters site so, once I reached the Westjet site, all was as usual. I try to remember to do it this way when I fly Westjet, ever since I was told about the site, because, as you say, it can’t hurt, right? :)


  4. Meanwhile, my trip today and my next trip in province are both booked on the train. So, am trying to practice what I preach.

    Thanks, Kim!

  5. One trouble with taking the train is the extra time. I have been to Montreal 3 times and Ottawa twice in the past 5 months. In every case if I had taken the train, I would have had to go the previous day, thus occupying a hotel room, which has some environmental cost (and cost in money to my employer, myself or the people inviting me). I fly Porter out of the Island, which uses (so they say) relatively low-impact planes, and much less taxi time and fuel for me, as I live and work downtown in Toronto. It is reasonable enough to expect some cost in time and money to reduce one’s environmental footprint, but at some point a sense of proportion needs to kick in too. Different folks will have different points for this to happen.