I want to travel guilt free.
February 22, 2007 11:34 AM   Subscribe

How many trees do I have to plant to offset commercial airflight?

Is there an easy formula which can tell me how many trees (and what kind) I have to plant to offset the CO2 emissions (and any other greenhouse related gases) that any particular commercial airflight that I take is responsible for?
posted by visual mechanic to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Calculator here.
posted by salvia at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2007

Plant poison ivy instead of trees.
posted by JJ86 at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2007

plant a tiny bit of kudzu it'll take care of itself
posted by subtle_squid at 12:55 PM on February 22, 2007

From the gocarbonzero site salvia mentions above:

Your Flying
We assume that a domestic or international trip originating in the U.S. averages 33.4 passenger miles per gallon according to Transportation, Energy, and the Environment. Burning a gallon of jet fuel produces 21.095 lbs of CO2 (U.S. Department of Energy and the Energy Information Administration, Instructions for Form EIA 1605B, Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Appendix B). The result is that each passenger mile creates 0.63 lbs. of CO2 (21.095 lbs. per gallon divided by 33.4 passenger miles per gallon).
posted by Argyle at 1:31 PM on February 22, 2007

Best answer: Well, not so fast. While a commendable sentiment, you may want to look here and here for some additional info.
posted by Pressed Rat at 1:48 PM on February 22, 2007

This site has a calculator that suggests you would need to plant 1 tree for every 1600 miles of air travel.

This Straight Dope article raises some questions as to whether or not it will work.
posted by justkevin at 1:53 PM on February 22, 2007

Have you considered offsetting as opposed to planting? I believe that while planting trees is good, it isn't actually as effective from a global warming perspective as actually purchasing carbon credits in the same amount you are emitting?

is one of several good resources.
posted by heh3d at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2007

I want to travel guilt free.

You can't. By all means though, compensate for the guilt generated using one consumer good (travel) by purchasing another (carbon offset).

Here are a few questions about carbon offsets:
November 16, 2006 5:56 PM

Can't see the forest for the carbon absorption rates
July 24, 2006 9:49 PM

Do carbon offsets really cook with gas, or just evaporate into thin air?
January 4, 2006 6:05 PM
posted by Chuckles at 9:26 PM on February 22, 2007

Trees only work as carbon sinks if the carbon stays in the tree forever (or at least for a long time). So you need to think about what happens to the tree when it dies. If it's just going to degrade and release the carbon back into the system then it doesn't really help (so trees for paper or low cost furniture or your garden, probably not so helpful). That's why coal is an issue, it's basically dead trees stuck in the ground happily keeping all that carbon bound up which we then dig up and burn.

I'm not sure what the solution is, what kind of trees are suitable. But it's the end use that you need to be thinking of when figuring it out.
posted by shelleycat at 11:47 PM on February 22, 2007

Best answer: I believe paper-in-landfills doesn't completely degrade, but locks something like 70% of its carbon in the ground. So if you can guarantee that your paper comes from sustainable tree farms, then not recycling it is an effective carbon sink (doubly so when you consider that recycling paper is a carbon-intensive manufacturing process).

However, Pressed Rat's links are worth reading, as is this comment.

If your goal is to be guilt free, consider this: every economic decision you make is a tradeoff between your myriad choices. You can choose to optimize your decisions for certain goals, such as reducing your carbon footprint, but if you optimize for one thing too strongly, you'll end up going mad or returning to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Therefore you need to balance your goals.

How important is climate change to you? How important is travelling? Is the trip you make frivolous, or will it create value and wealth exceeding the harm done to the environment? Remember that the reason you care about the environment in the first place is because it has a value to you. But it's not the only thing that has a value to you.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:45 AM on February 23, 2007

The only effective way of leaving no footprint is to stay where you are.
posted by tjvis at 11:45 AM on February 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

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