A new international website is offering environmentally conscious airplane passengers a chance to plant a tree to offset the carbon dioxide damage from flying.
Fuel burned during an airplane's flight produces carbon dioxide (CO2), which scientists say contributes to global warming. Trees absorb carbon dioxide using the sun's energy.
The website, www.treeflights.com, whose slogan is "You fly - we plant," will plant one tree in a forest in Wales for each flight taken for a fee of about $19.
Treeflights founder, Ru Hartwell, says it is a simple idea that gives something back to the planet.
"Flying is a little bit hard on the planet, but planting a tree is an ecologically positive thing to kind of make amends for some of the damage that you are causing," said Hartwell.
Hartwell says because trees take a long time to mature, planting a tree does not make your flight carbon-neutral or immediately cancel out the CO2 emitted from your flight.
"We are very, very keen to stress when you plant a tree, it is not something you do for yourself. It is a long-term thing," he continued. "It is definitely not a quick fix. As humans, we are so used to thinking about this week or about next week or maybe next year. Really, to get on top of this problem, we have got to be thinking about 50 or 100 years into the future and that is what tree planting is all about. It is something you do for future generations."
Passengers can select from a variety of tree species such as birch, oak, poplar, and willow. Although Treeflights is based in Wales where Hartwell lives, he says people from around the world request to have trees planted.
"The thing to understand is that we all share the same atmosphere so it does not really matter where you are flying or where the tree is planted," noted Hartwell. "The destructive effect of the flight is the same, irrespective of where you are flying and the beneficial effect of the tree planting is the same irrespective of where the tree is planted."
Treeflights gives passengers the option of adopting a tree. Hartwell says people can visit one of the three planting sites in Wales where their tree, identified with a serial number, is planted.
Treeflights customer, Francesca Attala, says while planting a tree does not entirely negate the effects of air travel, it is better than doing nothing.
"With my work, I travel a lot. I actually use planes and trains and automobiles quite a lot and I think it is a small way of giving something back," said Attala. "I know that it is not going to make a difference tomorrow, but it will make a difference for the future generations. It is a very slow, very patient way of giving something back to the planet, but I still think it is worth it."
The United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports U.S. airlines carried 746 million passengers on 11 million flights in 2005 and the number of passengers is only expected to increase.
Hartwell eventually hopes to forge partnerships with the airline industry to encourage more passengers to make theirs a treeflight.