Pitkin County to promote green air travel with program to offset environmental impact
Visitors to Aspen who fly into the city’s airport can now offset the environmental impact of their travels through an online program that supports emissions-reducing projects across the country.
While the program — called The Good Traveler — has not yet officially been launched on Pitkin County and Aspen-Pitkin County Airport websites, passengers can go to thegoodtraveler.org website and calculate their impacts and offsets, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said.
“I think it’s kind of cool,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of voluntary participation we can get.”
For example, a round-trip flight from New York’s La Guardia Airport to Aspen covers 3,502 miles and would require a passenger to buy four offsets to balance the trip’s carbon emissions, according to the website. One offset — said to counterbalance 1,000 miles of air travel — costs $2, so the carbon offset for the trip would be $8.
The money goes toward “some extra good like restoring wetlands or growing forests,” the website states. Programs that receive money from the offsets include protection of grasslands in Colorado, waste composting in Washington and improving marine shipping efficiency, according to the website.
The Good Traveler program began at the San Diego International Airport in 2015 and now includes numerous other airport partners across the country. Aspen’s Sardy Field is set to join the program as a partner at the beginning of the year, Peacock said.
The San Diego airport chose the Rocky Mountain Institute — which is headquartered in Basalt — to manage the program and recruit other airports in 2016. The program now counts 16 American airports as members, which means they promote The Good Traveler program to passengers who use those airports, said Dave Mullaney, a manager at RMI in Basalt.
“We’re giving passengers an option to do something in an easy and credible way,” Mullaney said.
Peacock said the idea to join the program came through the county’s vision process for planning a new airport. Officials realized that the technology for greening the airport industry doesn’t exist and probably won’t for the near future, he said.
Mullaney said biofuels for airplanes and short-range electric airplanes won’t be available for at least a decade, if not two. So, The Good Traveler program is an attempt to bridge the gap between now and when technology catches up, he said.
Eventually, the program’s goal is to fund local carbon offset projects with money collected from local travelers, Mullaney said.
“We’d like to see one of those projects come to the valley,” he said. “That’s what all the airports want … is to make where they live nicer.”
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