Investing in/interacting with carbon offsetting projects can, at the very least, go some way to neutralising the environmental impact of your travels.
In this post, we'll uncover some of the best carbon offsetting apps that are currently available. Before we go through the list however, there's a really important thing we need to mention first.
Carbon offsetting is not perfect
The most effective way of reducing your carbon footprint when travelling is to reduce the number of flights you take. Taking fewer but longer trips is, by a long way, much better for the planet. It's as simple as that.
Carbon offsetting is an easy way to rectify occasions where you’ve not been able to limit your impact. Ideally, there wouldn’t be a need for carbon offsetting projects, but humans aren’t perfect. For now, they provide an ability to offset some unavoidable carbon emissions.
That said, carbon offsetting projects generally are themselves, not perfect either.
Many carbon offsetting projects focus on planting trees. Whilst the earth benefits from every new tree that’s planted, it can take decades for new trees to start making a positive contribution to reducing carbon in the atmosphere.
When seeking to carbon offset then, finding projects that invest in clean energy technology is more useful and can have greater short term impact.
Before you offset your carbon, check your footprint
Before you choose which projects to interact with, you should calculate what your carbon footprint is. Many of the carbon offsetting projects will help you do this, but if you’re curious about your impact before choosing a project to get involved with, there are specific services that can do this for you.
- The WWF's Footprint Calculator is often recommended. It asks a few questions on your lifestyle and then gives you your carbon emissions in tonnes.
- For calculating your carbon emissions specifically from flights, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) provides a good tool.
Once you’ve calculated your carbon footprint, you then have a target to aim for.
5 of the best carbon offsetting apps
We now come to our list of carbon offsetting apps. Each app differs on how it operates. Some ask for one-time or monthly payments to specific organisations, whilst others require some form of interaction from you.
We've tried out each of these apps so that you can choose the one that suits you best.
Treeapp: Plant a tree for free, everyday
Treeapp is an app we've been using for some time. It offers the chance to plant a tree per day for free. All you need to do is open the app each day, choose from a selection of NGO-operated tree planting projects located all over the world and then, tap through a short advertising presentation.
The presentations are always provided by ethical companies selling sustainable products and are far more interesting than just plain ads. Once you've tapped through, your tree is funded and added to your tally. It's that simple.
The app provides a link to WWF's carbon footprint calculator. You can then use the outcome of the calculator to track your monthly and annual progress.
Klima: Climate action for all
Klima is a carbon offsetting app which calculates a unique paid monthly subscription based on your personal carbon footprint. Your footprint is calculated based on a series of questions that the app asks you when you first open it. It's pretty slick.
We like that you can choose which types of projects to invest in. Your monthly subscription can help to plant trees, enable solar power plants or provide clean cooking stoves (or a combination of all three).
As well as collecting funding from you, Klima goes a step further by providing personalised tips on how you can makes changes to your life, further reducing your footprint.
The app is really nicely done and we like that independent verifiers are baked into the company's processes.
Ecosia: The search engine that plants trees
Ecosia is an internet search engine that also plants trees. When you search for something, you're shown contextual ads along with your search results (which are provided by Bing) and Ecosia passes the income from these ads onto tree planting projects. It's a really simple and clever way to monetise something we all do, everyday. At the time of writing, Ecosia users have planted over 136-million trees.
In the app, you can search for stuff, keep track of your impact and find out more the projects. You can also use the app to change the default search engine in your web browser.
WWF My Footprint: Challenges to change your lifestyle
This app from conservation charity WWF sets out to challenge you on making small changes to your everyday life. Similarly to the other apps on this list, one of the first things the app asks you to do is to set your carbon footprint, which is does through a series of questions. Once this is done, you can then choose to engage with small but highly impactful challenges. Some of the challenges include, "Set your dishwasher to eco mode," "Go car-free for the day," and "Adopt an animal."
It's important to note that the challenges don't directly offset your travel carbon, but they do help you to start thinking about the impact your entire lifestyle has on the planet.
Capture: The carbon footprint tracker
Capture goes about offsetting carbon is a totally unique way. While it asks you similar initial questions to other apps in this category, Capture goes one step further and utilises the GPS in your phone to actively track you. It then uses this data to calculate your actual CO2 emissions and then charges you a personalised monetary figure based on your activity. That money goes to both tree planting and carbon reduction projects.
The Capture team takes 10% of what you pay to find their work, which we think seems fair.
There's still work to do
None of these apps are perfect, but they can help to reduce your carbon footprint. That said, one of the easiest and most effective ways of reducing your carbon footprint is to change your behaviour. In the case of travel, this means taking fewer flights.
We know this is easier said than done.
Do you use any other carbon offsetting apps that aren't on this list? Please let us know about it in the comments below.