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Staff Writer

March 14, 2023

Carbon neutral air travel

What exactly is a carbon footprint?

You’ve likely heard about carbon footprints by now – the measure of the amount of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by a particular human activity. Greenhouse gases are any gases that absorb and re-emit heat into the atmosphere, keeping the atmosphere warmer than it should be.

Because these gases are released as a result of any human activity, the amounts they are released in can be as small as the actions of an individual, or as large as the collective actions of a whole country. It is measured as tons of carbon dioxide emitted per year – which comes from both the release of CO2 itself or of any of its equivalent gases, including methane and nitrous oxide. Each of these greenhouse gases has a “global warming potential” (GWP). According to Ecometrica, GWP indicates “the amount of warming a gas causes over a given period of time”.  

You can calculate your carbon footprint for anything you might do, from going to the grocery store to flying to another country. And as different as those activities might be on your pocket, so is the amount of greenhouse gases released by each of them.

How much does flying contribute?

According to Climate Neutral Group, flying contributes to 40% of carbon emissions in the travel industry, followed by other forms of transportation that jointly make up 32%, and accommodation contributing 24%. Globally, flying counts towards 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. And, locally, a return flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, emits almost 500 kg of carbon dioxide.

How can I help?

While it is almost impossible to fly commercially without carbon emissions, you can take individual steps to reduce your carbon footprint while travelling. When it comes to booking your flights, you can try to make the trip carbon neutral. This is when you calculate the emissions your trip will generate, working out what the monetary value of those emissions would be, and then contributing financially to a project that works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the same amount. These types of projects include initiatives that plant trees, support solar or wind power, or reducing communities’ dependency on fossil fuels.

In South Africa, an initiative by the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) encourages passengers to buy indigenous spekboom cuttings and plant them to offset carbon emissions. According to SATSA, the spekboom can sequester more than 4 tonnes of CO2 per year per hectare planted. Each package costs R36 and can be purchased through the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) Spekboom nursery.

When booking on, you can to make a financial contribution to projects that offset carbon emissions. Alternatively, sign up to Tweak to calculate your footprint and offset your carbon footprint from air travel.

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