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A traveller’s guide to carbon offsetting

When it comes to sustainable travel, a topic that comes up time and time again is carbon offsetting. You might have heard your airline or your favourite travel influencer mention it, but what actually is it and how does it work? Well, at Hostelworld we’ve launched this for our travellers and here we’re going to break it down for you, so you can decide whether to offset your next trip. 

Travel and our carbon footprint 

When we travel, our carbon footprint grows; using transport to get around, turning on aircon and even enlisting the help of Google Maps.  

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, tourism is responsible for roughly 8-11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the biggest impact coming from flying. But there are ways you can be a more sustainable traveller and lower your carbon impact when you explore. Such as: 

1. Travel overland  

Instead of hopping on and off planes, taking buses or trains can massively reduce your carbon footprint. 

2. Book economy seats 

When you do fly, book economy tickets. More bums on seats means fewer emissions per person. And when you can, take direct flights as they use less fuel.  

3. Share transport with others 

If you need to take a taxi, check if someone in your hostel is heading the same way. Put feelers out in the hostel group chat to find someone to car share with, and you could save money on the fare and cut down your carbon emissions.  

4. Stay in sustainable accommodation 

Research shows that hostels are more eco-friendly than hotels. By sharing a dorm room with a bunch of travellers you’re not only in for a more sociable trip, but a more ecological one. 

5. Pack light 

The heavier your luggage the more fuel it takes to transport you on trains, planes, buses, cars and boats. Packing light can have a big impact on your emissions. Research by Finnair found that if every passenger that flew with them in one year had travelled with 1kg less luggage, the savings made on fuel would have covered 20 flights between Helsinki and Tokyo! Switch out the heavy suitcase for a lightweight backpack and remove items you can buy once you’re there.  

6. Walk around 

When you explore new places, hitting that step count tends to be easier. Being conscious of your carbon footprint and opting to walk instead of taking that tuk-tuk can keep your emissions at bay.  

7. Eat local food 

Local cuisine is usually made of locally sourced ingredients and eating it can help you avoid buying imported food. Imported food can produce tonnes of emissions just getting it there, from transporting it to keeping it fresh. Eating locally not only immerses you in the culture and keeps your carbon footprint down, but also supports the local economy. 

8. Minimise your food waste 

When food waste breaks down in landfill it emits so many harmful greenhouse gases that if it were a country, it would be the third biggest polluter after the US and China. We all get moments where our eyes are bigger than our bellies, instead of wasting your leftovers, bring a reusable container with you or ask for a doggy bag to save the rest of your meal for later. 

9. Travel slower  

It can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to see and do everything in a destination, but by travelling at a fast pace you often take more transport. By slowing down you can get to know a place beyond tourist spots and minimise your carbon footprint. 

10. Support companies that care 

From something as simple as switching the beer you drink to a more sustainable brewery, to taking part in environmentally-friendly activities, you can have all the experience with the clean conscious.  

11. Offset your carbon footprint 

While these tips can help you cut down your carbon footprint, as travellers certain emissions are hard to avoid. Buying carbon offsets is one of the only ways to counterbalance the emissions that you can’t control.  


What is carbon offsetting? 

In our daily lives, we all produce carbon emissions that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and harm the environment. From cooking a meal to scrolling on social media, it all adds to our carbon footprint. Yes, you read that right, the internet and data needed to power the content you see and the servers that store it add to your carbon footprint!  

Carbon offsetting is where you give money to an environmental project that supports the climate, to make up for the negative impact of your emissions. 

These projects can vary, from reforestation, which stops trees being cut down or plants more, to renewable energy initiatives like wind farms, which reduce the amount of fossil fuels being burned. Offsetting doesn’t remove the emissions you’ve already added, but instead helps contribute to projects that will eventually counteract them. Many projects also support communities from less developed areas.  

Concerns around offsetting 

While some question the credibility of carbon offsetting, research shows that it is beneficial, and we believe this is a step in a positive direction for our customers. Working with the climate experts at Cloverly, we’ll continue to support the research and as more information comes out, we’ll evolve our thinking. 


How to offset your flights  

Carbon offsetting providers can help you calculate your carbon footprint and invest in sustainable projects. The process is:  

  1. Calculate the emissions of your flights and/or other transport. Use a carbon footprint calculator to find the amount of carbon you’ve generated. The amount will look like: [number] tonnes of CO2e or [number] tCO2e. 
  2. Select a project to support or distribute your offsets across multiple causes. Different companies have different portfolios of projects you can support through them.
  3. Purchase your offset credits. For your chosen amount and project. The provider will then give your contribution to the project. 


How to offset your accommodation (with Hostelworld) 

Like we said, Hostelworld customers can now offset their hostel stay. But we’ve made the process a little easier: 

Step 1: After booking your next stay, you’ll receive an email from us 

In this email there will be:  

  • A link to your offset calculation, which we’ve worked out for you. 
  • The choice of offsetting your full stay or half of your stay.   
  • Details of the 3 projects you can support. 

Step 2: Choose your project 

To give you a chance to support a project close to your heart, we’ve chosen a mix of destinations and causes aligned with our customers’ experiences.  

From reforestation in Australia, to protecting forests and wildlife from palm oil farming in Indonesia and providing indigenous communities with sustainable cookstoves in Guatemala. We’re sure there’s a cause for everyone to get behind.  

We’ve done the due diligence for you, working with Cloverly to ensure these projects make a real difference to the environment and the people they aim to help.  

Step 3: Buy your credits  

Follow the link to Cloverly’s payment page to buy your credits and that’s you done; you can celebrate being a sustainable traveller! 


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