Combating Flight Emissions with Carbon Offsets

Until recently, my knowledge of carbon offsets and carbon neutrality was limited, but I knew they were important factors in adapting to climate change. This brought me to do some research, and what I found was interesting and helped me gain perspective. It’s no secret that carbon emissions have been on the rise, but there are more and more ways to bring them back down. Major companies now have the power and resources to work towards a solution, even the airline industry.

What are Carbon Offsets?

In simple terms, carbon offsets are investments into various projects that reduce greenhouse gases, like forestry or capturing emissions. These projects collect carbon and then convert it to energy, in the case of replanting trees it’s done by photosynthesis. Renewable energy certificates (RECs) are often categorized with carbon offsets, but are a different concept as they don’t remove carbon, but prevent it’s production by powering solar, wind, and other clean energy sources.

Corporate Responsibility

When a company is carbon neutral, it either means that they have invested into carbon offsets or RECs to bring their net emissions to zero or that they have found a way not to produce emissions at all. If they are investing into carbon offsets it doesn’t mean they don’t produce any greenhouse gases, they’re simply calculating their carbon output and paying to have that amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere.

How Carbon Offsets Apply to Air Travel

In 2019 the aviation industry contributed 915 million tons of CO2 emissions worldwide, a significant increase from previous years. It’s even expected that Airline emissions will nearly triple by 2050. I often feel guilty for traveling as much as I do and working in the aviation industry, when we are facing a big climate crisis. I’m sure I’m not alone in the sentiment that we desperately need a solution.

Just recently, a major U.S. airline has become the first in the country to claim carbon neutrality, which is a major step in the right direction. According to their website, they are investing in and fueling all flights leaving out of San Francisco with sustainable airline fuel (SAF) made by Neste, a Finland based company that produces renewable diesel and SAF from waste materials.

The airline is also investing into solar and wind energy farms, forestry conservation projects, and landfill gas capture. As this company continues to work with environmental groups, I hope it encourages other airlines to make this change of buying carbon offsets to balance flight emissions. While it’s important for us to do our best to reduce our carbon footprints individually, it’s time for major corporations to take accountability.

Eco Friendly Dental Care Alternatives

five bamboo toothbrushes lined up next to each other on a wooden surface

Plastic toothbrushes alone create 50 million pounds of trash in the U.S. every year, all of the other products in your medicine cabinet only contribute to this amount of waste. Try replacing the items you use with the following eco-friendly dental care options!

Bamboo Toothbrush

Bamboo is one of the most sustainable crops and is completely biodegradable. There are a few different versions of bamboo toothbrushes to choose from. Those with nylon bristles are the best vegan option, some are even blended with charcoal. The bristles in these can be removed and recycled, and the bamboo handle can be composted.

Other brushes are made with boar hair bristles and are fully compostable. If using a vegan product is important to you, pay attention to the product you’re buying. Also, please make sure that the product you buy comes in compostable packaging.

Silk Floss

I find that silk floss is the best option when it comes to sustainability. Keep in mind that this isn’t a vegan choice because the process involves boiling silkworm pupae. Some brands make vegan PLA floss, but unfortunately it is not easily biodegradable. Whatever option is best for you, just look for a one that comes in a reusable (preferably glass) container with refills available.

Toothpaste

Tooth tablets are becoming a popular substitute due to plastic-free packaging, order a refill from any brand and store them in your own container. Some companies still use plastic bottles, so be aware of the packaging when buying these products. If you’re like me and still prefer a classic toothpaste, Nelson’s Naturals provides a clean option that is packaged in a reusable glass jar, I also like that I can get refills of this product at my local zero waste shop. Keep in mind that some zero/low waste toothpaste brands don’t include fluoride in their products, this is a necessary ingredient recommended by dentists to protect against cavities and strengthen enamel.

Mouthwash

There are many natural solutions that can be made at home with baking soda, herbs, essential oils, and more. Search the web for a combination you like. Be careful of just throwing any products together as some mixtures could be toxic and dangerous. My safe alternative is to simply boil 1 tbsp of cloves in 1 1/2 cups of water, strain and allow to cool, this solution lasts for a week. Cloves have been used as a breath freshener for centuries and has antimicrobial and medicinal properties, which makes for a powerful mouthwash.

Mouthwash tabs are another alternative. Like tooth tabs, they come in glass or biodegradable paper packaging and are easy to travel with. These work by letting one tablet dissolve in a small amount of water.

All of these eco friendly dental care items can be found at an affordable price on Etsy, Amazon or Package Free Shop.

2 Days in the Medieval Town of Bruges

Straight out of a fairytale, this medieval village in the Northern region of Belgium is full of magic and beauty. The lovely canals weaving through the city give it the title “The Venice of Belgium”. Filled with museums and history, there’s always something to do. Typically crowded with more visitors than locals during summer months, I was glad to explore this town in the off season to truly enjoy it’s charm.

Each day I got up early to wander and take beautiful photos of empty streets and cute buildings before the shops and restaurants opened. It’s easy to spend all day admiring the medieval architecture and pausing at every water way. The historic center itself is listed as a UNESCO site if you still need a reason to visit.

What To Do

Beer

Anyone who enjoys a nice pint can’t miss a tasting in Belgium.  Even those that aren’t fans of beer might enjoy a red ale (similar to mead), which is only produced at a select number of Belgian breweries.  Tastings are offered all over town, and with such a rich history in beer, it’s worth taking a tour at one of the three breweries left in the city.

Halve Maan Brewery€12 -includes free pint

Tours are offered every hour from 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. daily and last approximately 45 minutes, finishing with a Blonde Ale or soft drink in their restaurant.  The guide gave us a very detailed history into the history of Bruges beer, and walked us through the malting, brewing, and fermenting process.  Halfway through the tour we were taken to the roof of the building to get a beautiful view of the city as well as the equipment.  If a tour isn’t for you, you can check the link below for the restaurant’s hours. **Keep in mind that this tour involves a lot walking up and down steep stairs.

The Beer Experience€10 tour/€16 tour with tasting

Technically not a brewery, this is still a really fun and interactive visit!  Take a self-guided tour with a tablet to learn about the history of beer and the brewing process.  Scan QR codes throughout the museum for videos and quiz questions.  They have a lot of cool information available, even a small exhibition on beer goddesses and women’s history in brewing.  The tasting at the end includes 3 beers, I really enjoyed the red ales, but they have a large menu of stouts, amber ales, etc.  It’s cool that you can also get your photo on a beer bottle in the gift shop.

Food Museums

Yes, I said Food Museums!  Since my diet consisted almost solely of fries and chocolate during my visit (both culinary staples of Belgium), the foodie in me just had to share that goodness with the world.

*Get a combination to ticket to both museums for €14.50.

Freitmuseum–  It’s much more interesting than the name let’s on.  The exhibitions take you through the history of potato cultivation & growth, different varieties from around the world, and historical events such as the potato famine in Ireland.  As you go through, you will also discover how fries came about and how cooking methods have evolved. The museum is also filled with tons of fry art and memorabilia that kids will enjoy. A coupon for the fry shop is included with entry, so stop by and get a snack on your way out.

Choco Story– There are actually many locations worldwide, I’ve even visited the one in Antigua, Guatemala. Similar to the concept of the fry museum, the chocolate museum shares a lot of history on the origin of cacao and the significance it had to the Aztecs and the role it played through the centuries. However, the best part is that there are multiple free chocolate dispensers where you can eat as much as you want. Make sure you show up hungry, my friends.

Other sites and information

Museum Pass€28(ages 26+)/€22 (ages 18-25) This can be used at all of the city run exhibits in Bruges, but does not cover entrance to private museums, so take a minute to plan ahead of time and see if it is worth it for you. Click here for to see what museums are included and other combination deals.

Die Markt– Popular square in the middle of the city, surrounded by beautiful architecture and famous sites. *Backpacker tip* Avoid food stands in this area if you’re on a budget.

Torture Museum€8 Not just for the enjoyment of sadists and masochists, take a look inside for bizarre devices and get a cringy history lesson.

Salvador Dali Gallery€10 A wonderful collection of the surreal world of Dali. If your pockets are deep enough, you can actually bid on the pieces on exhibit.

Groeninge Museum12 A small collection of Flemish art from the 18th and 19th century, including pieces from Van Eyck, Bosch, and Magritte.

Minnewater lake and Castle– Also known as the “Lake of Love”. Take a walk through the park, and make sure to see the swans at Begijnhof while in the area.

It’s the little villages that make me fall deeper in love with Europe, quaint cities like Bruges have a charm that pull you in like a warm embrace (even in the middle of winter). The cozy shops, small streets, and friendly people can’t help but make you feel at home.