IMAGE: AIRPLANES AT AIRPORT
Frank Franklin II  /  AP
Like all other vehicles that run on fossil fuel, commercial jets emit gases that many scientists tie to global warming.
msnbc.com
updated 8/29/2006 5:01:35 PM ET 2006-08-29T21:01:35

Eco-travelers of the world, listen up. Two major online travel agencies this week launched programs to let you offset travel-related emissions tied to global warming. The question now is whether people who consider themselves environmentally aware will buy into the concept.

Rivals Travelocity and Expedia are taking slightly different approaches to the idea of offsetting the carbon dioxide emitted by aircraft, rental cars and even hotel rooms.

Travelocity is allowing folks who buy vacation packages to offset carbon emissions through a tax-deductible donation to The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that then plants trees, which absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.

"These newly created forests do more than just address global warming -- they leave a lasting legacy by restoring important wildlife habitat, enhancing outdoor recreation areas and improving air and water quality," Travelocity said in a statement announcing the program.

The nonprofit Conservation Fund said a $10 donation offsets an average trip including air travel, a one-night hotel stay, and rental car for one person; $25 offsets air travel, a four-night hotel stay, and rental car for two people; and $40 offsets air travel, a four-night hotel stay, and a rental car for four people.

Even before the program, the Conservation Fund said it has protected 25,000 acres and planted five million trees able to absorb nearly seven million tons of carbon dioxide over 100 years.

Travelocity President Michelle Peluso said the program, dubbed GoZero, “helps us serve the increasing number of consumers who want a way to offset their carbon, while promoting planting that helps strengthen places for recreation and wildlife.”

Expedia, for its part, allows any traveler to pay a fee prior to checkout to sponsor carbon emissions reductions in line with the emissions generated from one's flight.

The company said it is partnering with TerraPass, a program that it says will fund "domestic clean energy projects, such as wind farms, innovative 'cow power' methane capture plants on American dairies, and the retirement of carbon offsets on the Chicago Climate Exchange."

Pricing starts at $5.99 to offset about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of a single airline passenger's contribution on a 2,200 mile round-trip flight. A $16.99 fee covers flights up to 6,500 flight miles, and $29.99 covers up to 13,000 flight miles.

Both Travelocity and Expedia said they are offering the services at cost.

Neither company would state projections, emphasizing instead that the programs are about quality service not quantity sales.

"The offering is aimed more at extending environmentally conscious options to our travelers as part of our broader commitment to responsible tourism," said Expedia spokeswoman Katie Deines.

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