Question: What are the best offsets for my company to buy to address guest travel?
Answer: None. Instead, sell a “policy tag” that contributes the same amount to policy action.

A friend, who’s a sustainability director at a big hospitality company and one of the leading green business practitioners I know, recently called me asking what cheap offsets I’d recommend to address guest travel.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

Buying offsets to deal with personal plane travel, or customer travel, has really become a ubiquitous program. I have focused, in the past, on which are good, and which are bad. But after my friend called and I recommended the high quality offsets from the Colorado Carbon Fund, I realized it was all silliness.

Even if the offset is legitimate, (which, sadly is pretty unlikely), the whole approach is flawed. Individual action isn’t going to get us there. It’s well understood that climate is so big it has become a policy issue. So I called back and advised my friend to buy, or sell, a $2 “policy tag” that contributes money to, say,, or NRDC, or CERES BICEP group, that is doing yoman’s work on solving climate by getting good policy in place. My friend was primarily interested in educating guests, and thought offsets were the cheapest way. I argued that this was even better, as it got people to recognize the scale of the problem. In fact, giving a couple of bucks to an effort like would have an interesting threshold effect, vs. the incrementalism of offsets. Each policy tag would be irrelevant. But if enough did it, we could end up solving the problem all at once, by hitting a huge policy tipping point after enough money was contributed. Such a tipping point would never happen with offsets.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Action item: CERES, NRDC,, and all you other kick-butt nonprofits out there working on climate policy (Colorado Conservation Voters! League of Conservation Voters! Union of Concerned Scientists!) Let’s create “Policy tags” and have resorts, airlines, car rental company, and hotels sell them, or buy them, instead of offsets. And let’s solve this friggin’ climate problem in the process.