4 Tips to Reduce Your Travel Carbon Footprint

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Scott Bulua is our first guest blogger and the creator of TripCarbon, a service that integrates with TripIt to show travelers the environmental impact from their travels. In the future, we’ll feature additional partners and developers on the TripIt blog.

As Earth Month winds down, here are four simple steps travelers can take to become more aware of their carbon footprint and make earth-friendly travel decisions all year-long:

1. Offset your personal travel: TripCarbon gives you an estimate of the CO2 you’re emitting from your flights, hotels, and rental cars. It even includes the full methodology behind the number it provides. You can use that number to purchase offsets, which will mitigate your environmental impact. Native Energy, Terrapass, and Brighter Planet are some good outlets for purchasing high quality offsets.

2. Create a personal or corporate CO2 target for your travel: Depending on your travel needs, create a monthly or quarterly cap for your travel’s CO2 emissions, and commit to staying under. A good way to do this is to take the average monthly travel from the previous 3 or 6 months, and reduce that by 25 percent. Set personal penalties for exceeding your target, like riding your bike to work instead of driving, taking public transportation instead of a cab on your next business trip, or making a donation to your favorite environmental charity.

3. Convince your employer to offset or reduce your travel: Show your employer how much carbon you’re using, and suggest ways to minimize or offset travel. Many companies involve their clients in the discussion about environmental impact, and split the costs of purchasing offsets.

4. Justify more direct routes: Does your travel department often suggest layovers to save money? Show them the reduced carbon impact of direct travel, and spend less time on planes.

How it works: TripCarbon is powered by BrighterPlanet’s CM1 carbon intelligence web service. Brighter Planet’s energy models use standards-certified calculations to analyze your environmental impact by combining the itinerary data from TripIt with government data from agencies like FAA and BTS. Unlike many carbon calculators, they’re able to get higher-resolution picture of your footprint by accounting for stuff that’s often overlooked — for instance, their flight calculations measure variables like the efficiency of your particular aircraft model and variations in cargo and passenger loads by route. As it turns out, these factors can mean that seemingly identical itineraries between the same airports have markedly different footprints.

For TripIt users: One of the great features of TripIt is its openness, and its Developer API, which allows engineers to create add-ons which complement the core functionality TripIt provides. I recently developed TripCarbon as an add-on, which calculates the carbon impact of your TripIt itinerary and displays this data on the TripIt website and smartphone app.

To get started, visit http://www.tripcarbon.com and use your TripIt login to grant access to TripCarbon. Shortly, you’ll see a summary of all your trips and the total carbon footprint. You’ll also be able to view this information on tripit.com, and on your TripIt smartphone app. Next, review the tips above to reduce your impact!

About Scott: Scott’s an old hand at both climate and computers, having led the Climate Campaign at Middlebury College —the foundation for the globally successful 350.org campaign—and having served as a developer and Product Manager for EchoDitto, GOOD, and Causes.com.