The environmental costs of travel


If you think the terms eco-friendly and frequent flier go hand in hand, consider this: every time you fly a single domestic coast-to-coast route you are personally responsible for pumping nearly half a ton of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Now some organizations are giving travelers an easy way to make up for the pollution they unwittingly produce. On the Web sites of U.K.-based Future Forests ( and Climate Care (, you can use an on-line calculator to determine the quantity of harmful gases you're contributing to the atmosphere based on the distances you fly, then choose from among a variety of ways to give back, including planting trees and sponsoring alternative energy technologies. According to Future Forests, planting one tree will offset the share of CO2—nearly two-thirds of a ton—that you generate on a one-way flight between New York and London. For $11 (and up) the company will plant a tree for you in one of 90 forests in the U.K., Mexico, India, and the United States, which include several celebrity-sponsored forests. (A sapling in Coldplay's mango grove in Karnataka, India, costs $26.) An $18 donation to Climate Care offsets the same amount of CO2 and goes toward programs that provide emission-reducing stoves to families in Bangladesh and energy-saving lightbulbs to communities in South Africa.

For those who spend time traveling on the road as well as in the air, the Maryland-based group Trees for the Future ( has a similar program: for $40 it will plant 400 trees for you, enough to pay penance for your car's lifetime of emissions.

Future Forests estimates that the average North American citizen's total responsibility—generated from air and car travel as well as from the use of electrical appliances—is 22 tons a year. What does it take to absolve yourself of that?Approximately $504 worth of trees.