Generally speaking, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Such is the case with the aviation and travel industries’ use of carbon offsetting, or so says Justin Francis, founder of responsibletravel.com. Francis, whose company offers socially and environmentally conscious travel options, was one of the first British travel operators to jump onto the carbon offsetting bandwagon back in 2002. Now he’s denying his customers the opportunity to purchase offsets, explaining that he sees them as “a medieval pardon that allows people to continue polluting.”
Carbon offsetting firms and supporters see things differently, generally arguing that offsetting is a way to act now in a world where we don’t have time to wait, but Francis isn’t alone in his disillusionment. He and a growing number of detractors believe that carbon offsetting is simply a way for the developed world to buy their way out of accountability. That said, Francis acknowledges that dropping offsetting wasn’t an easy decision.
“It would have been much easier for me to go on blithely offering offsets, keeping my head below the parapet. But ultimately we need to reduce our carbon emissions. We can do this by flying less – traveling by train or taking holidays closer to home for example, and by making carbon reductions in other areas of our lifestyles too.”
In addition to no longer making offsets available for purchase, responsibletravel.com will begin labeling their travel packages with “carbon warnings,” which will outline the environmental impact of each flight. It’s an honorable, if not risky, move for the company, but Francis seems both idealistic and determined.
“What we have to do is offer holidays that are the most beneficial to the environment. What we have to tell people is: ‘Fly less and when you do fly, make it count’.”