United unveils carbon offsets, but are they worth it?

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United Airlines has added a service to its website (united.com/carbonoffset) that promises to compensate for your share of carbon dioxide that your flight spews out during your trip. Says a United spokesperson, "An offset for travel from Tampa Bay to Chicago may be available for a contribution as low as $2.05."

You make a tax-deductible donation to an eco-friendly program run by Sustainable Travel International in partnership with Conservation International, notes the Chicago Tribune.

United offers several programs to donate to. Budget Travel has the most confidence in The Gold Standard option. As reporter Heather Eng found in our Web story "Are Carbon Offsets Worth It?",

The Gold Standard is backed by 60 nongovernmental organizations and was started in part by the World Wildlife Fund. It only approves energy-efficient projects, such as distributing power-saving appliances in developing nations, and renewable energy projects, such as building water power plants. It does not give its seal of approval to tree-planting projects out of concerns that reforestation may not directly reduce carbon dioxide concentrations.

Delta was the first U.S. airline to adopt a program like this, Air France was the first major European airline. Continental, Virgin America have started similar programs.


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