May 5, 2019

Climate change free project idea #2

Oli Hall @SuchIndieHackMuchWow

Hello again. I thought I'd post another climate change idea I don't have time to try :)

Carbon calculators. There are a lot of these out there, but how about one specifically for travel. You put in flights, or journey details, it calculates carbon emissions, then you can pay to offset, choosing from a selection of accredited offset schemes. Carbon Footprint already do something along these lines, but I feel like there's room for more. The calculations themselves are non-trivial, especially if you want to be as accurate as possible, but this seems doable. This could work for individuals or businesses - I could see businesses wanting to offset (air) travel to improve their green credentials.


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    Aren't there numerous studies and examples of why carbon credits don't work? Sorry to sound so pessimistic but I wonder what if anything this will do to stop us going over the threshold in 2030 (or sooner)?

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      No no, it's a legitimate concern. I do have other ideas that don't revolve around offset schemes, but one of the angles I have been thinking about is trying to make the invisible (environmental impacts of human activity) visible (in this case to the market/capitalism). Carbon offset schemes are not ideal, in that they don't tackle the root cause (people polluting), but they do put a price on that pollution, which means people can see the impacts of what they are doing, and choose a different path potentially. Large scale change would probably require governmental policy change, but some way of internalising the externality that is envirnmental impact is how I see this.

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    We've just launched a beta of our tool AirCare which is doing this specifically for air travel. One of the things we're trying to do is make it easier for people to understand the climate impact of their air travel by equating it to miles driven and estimating how much arctic sea ice could melt based on these added emissions.

    Would love some feedback if anyone has the chance to check it out :)

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      That's really cool, and looks to be simple to use. I stopped flying earlier this year, but I'll pass it on to some friends who may be interested.

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    I think it sounds useful, you could always display the alternative travel options and their impact e.g. I took the train the Berlin recently rather than flying, for a work trip, and though it was a little bit more expensive it was actually beneficial for the company/the planet as a.) my emissions were lower and b.) I could do most of a days work on the train so didn't lose a day in transit to and from airports/on planes etc. So you could have a table that shows all the travel options, their time, cost and options to offset each one in the last column maybe

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      Ah yeah, that's actually a hybrid of this and the last idea I posted - I like it! So a travel calculator, that shows the emissions costs, but builds in an offset payment into it as well - so you effectively see the full price of that mode of travel (including emissions).

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    Do you think companies and travel websites will integrate this directly to their check out process and give their users the options to do so right there?

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      The field has gradually shifted over the past year - originally, all the burden was on customers to offset themselves, but a few airlines have started integrating optional offsetting into their checkout processes (though I think they tend to perform the calculations in-house right now).

      More recently, a number of airlines (easyJet, JetBlue, Delta) have made pledges to offset all emissions themselves (presumably either swallowing the cost, or incorporating it into ticket prices. I still think there's a market for accurate carbon calculation though - it's a huge and relatively untapped market that's sorely needed.

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        Definitely - I see that the main airline website does those now, however, the travel aggregators do not. I wonder if they are just not prioritizing that...