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San Francisco: If you MUST fly, why not buy some carbon offsets?

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The new Climate Passport program at the San Francisco International Airport grabbed my attention a couple of weeks ago now, but frankly I haven't real...

The new Climate Passport program at the San Francisco International Airport grabbed my attention a couple of weeks ago now, but frankly I haven't really been able to figure out what I think about it.

Here's the idea: Whenever you walk into the airport to start (or finish) a trip, you can drop by a kiosk that will calculate the carbon impact of your travel. You can then buy offsets from the kiosk manager, 3Degrees, that will go to a forestry project in the Garcia River Forest. Some of the money will also go to the San Francisco Carbon Fund. The projects and offsets purchased to support it are verified by the Climate Action Registry.

Far be it from me to deride a noble cause, because I am the first to love a picnic under the redwoods, but I have trouble believing that many people will opt to use the kiosk -- even considering the demographic.

Personally speaking, traveling is enough of a nightmare without someone conspiring to make me feel guilty about it. I guess if I carried on my luggage and avoided the luggage handling fee, MAYBE I would have a few extra dollars to spend on an offset. But if I have to take the step of walking to a separate kiosk, dragging my luggage with me, who knows? Who am I kidding, I'm a sucker for stuff for this, but I'm not as jaded or put-upon as the average frequent flier.

Perhaps smarter instead for the 3Degrees organization to look into teaming up with travel agencies and travel booking web sites to offer its service at the point of sale, when travelers aren't as stressed and when it might be more convenient for them to act on their guilt feelings. Or maybe tie it somehow to an airline affinity program. Then their carbon impact program might have a broader impact.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure