The Real Costs of Plane Emissions

There are a lot of things I think about when I board a plane. For example, if I get stuck in a middle seat, I expect to be flanked by two lumbering people who smell of hot dogs and failure. The only aspect of the trip that I don’t consider is the environmental cost.

Well, hey. That won’t happen anymore. The Real Costs project forces a traveler to see what he normally takes for granted. The Real Costs is a plug-in for Mozilla Firefox, and it waits patiently until you plan a trip on a website like US Airways, American Airlines, or Orbitz. After you enter your depart and arrival points, The Real Costs presents you with a bar graph comparing the amount of carbon dioxide produced by that flight and alternative modes of transport like buses and trains. The project creators note: “Think of it like the nutritional information labeling on the back of food… except for emissions.”

I tried The Real Costs while planning a round-trip flight from Philadelphia, PA to Munich, Germany. The graph predicted the flight would produce about 11,206lbs of CO2 which requires 203 “tree-years” to convert back into oxygen. There were even 203 little tree icons below the graph to drive the point home. Wow.

The goal of the project is to “increase awareness of the environmental impact of certain day to day choices in the life of the Internet user.” The group hopes to expand the plug-in to support driving directions, parcel shipping, and car rentals.

(via MAKE: Blog)