The problem: Air tavel emits massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the cost for this to the environment is not being covered by the airlines or the passengers.
So for me, my flight UK to Napier, NZ, then to Christchurch, then from Queenstown to Sydney, and back to Napier, and then a return to London will amount to
Using http://www.climatecare.org/calculators/flight/ to calculate my CO2 emissions, (approximating for the short haul as not all the local airports are available), my jaunt to NZ and Oz will have emitted 6.85 Tonnes of CO2. WOW. That's a lot of gas!
- go local: race somewhere nearby, travel by public transport or rent a hybrid car! (see below or ask your usual car hire company for a Prius)
- where this isn't possible ... that international race has Hawaii slots, the UK weather is just too miserable to spend the whole day racing in etc etc then choose to offset you carbon emissions.
What You Can Do
* Purchase wind certificates. Organizations such as WindCurrent (http://www.windcurrent.com/), NativeEnergy (http://www.nativeenergy.com/), and Renewable Choice Energy (http://www.renewablechoice.com/) allow customers to purchase certificates, sometimes known as green tags to offset emissions caused by automobile or air travel. Some of these sites have CO2 calculators that estimate your impact in tons.
* Plant trees. Forests take CO2 out of the atmosphere and lock it away in wood, where it stays until the wood rots or burns. US-based Trees for the Future (http://www.treesftf.org/) offers a "Cool Car Certificate" that plants 300 trees (the estimated amount of trees it will take to offset one vehicle's emissions in a lifetime) for $30. You can offset air travel through its "Trees for Travel" program ($1 will offset a round-trip domestic flight, $3 an international one).
UK Future Forests (http://www.futureforests.com/) plants trees in more than 80 forests in the U.K., Mexico, India, and the U.S. A global flight calculator determines how many trees you need to plant to offset a flight—two trees, for example, for a New York-to-London round trip, or $30—as a part of the CarbonNeutral flight program. Note that the jury's out on temperate sequestration through afforestation: this may lead to a local warming effect which negates the CO2 absorption.
* Support other offset programs. U.K.-based Climate Care (http://www.co2.org/) provides a mix of offset strategies with programs that save energy, that encourage clean energy, and that remove CO2 (sample donation: $11 to offset a New York-to-L.A. round trip).
In the US, the Better World Club (http://www.betterworldclub.com/), an eco-oriented auto club, offers members who book plane tickets through its in-house travel agency free carbon offsets on two domestic and one international flight each year. Nonmembers worldwide can purchase offsets—$11 for a domestic flight and $22 for an international flight.
* Drive a hybrid car. In the US, EV Rental Cars (http://www.evrental.com/), offers eco-friendly cars at eight metropolitan locations including, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, and Washington, D.C., through its partnership with Budget (http://www.budget.com/). Enterprise Rent-a-Car (http://www.enterprise.com/) also has a fleet of Toyota Prius models for rent in select U.S. cities.
My choice: I went with Climate Care... 80% of their offset projects are currently from sustainable energy projects, but the reforestation they do do is is Ugandan rainforest. So I get to guarantee that the reforestation is in the tropics, avoiding the sticky issue that reforestation in temperate climates can act as a heat store, so offsetting the carbon store effect of the growing forest.
The cost? Rounding to 7 tonnes of CO2 the cost is £52.50. While this may seem a lot (though on what relative scale I'm not sure), 7 tonnes of CO2 is a large amount of CO2. Quickly comparing to some average consumption figures for a UK resident:
£10 = 1.3 tonnes CO2 - Offsets 4,000 miles of driving in an average sized car (35 mpg, petrol).
£30 = 4 tonnes CO2 - Offsets 3 short haul and 1 long haul flights.
£40 = 5 tonnes CO2 - Offsets emissions from the average annual UK home energy use.
£90 = 12 tonnes CO2 - Offsets one person's portion of the annual UK emissions.
ie that long haul airtravel is seriously costly in terms of emissions relative to other activities that I could do.
Done - credit card details via WorldPay and its all done.
Hopefully in the future, airlines will offer offsets automatically when you purchase a ticket online (I think Virgin Blue started this in Australia this year for example), and eventually include it in the cost of tickets so that it is mandatory; until then, there's climate care!