I recently booked a transatlantic return flight with Virgin Atlantic. When you view your booking details on the Virgin website, they include a link to their carbon offsetting scheme.

A while ago, I wrote a blog post (Carbon off-setting) in which I described my current view (or near lack of) of carbon off-setting schemes. When I booked the Virgin flights, I didn’t immediately go for the carbon off-setting option because it pointed to a company I’d not heard of and, in a world of dodgy carbon off-setting schemes, how do I know they’re any different?

So I did a bit of research. I remember last year the UK Government (specifically Defra) identified four carbon off-setting companies that were kind of recommended but kind of not. Which is a reflection of the state of confusion customers are in. While I used Climate Care last year because that’s what The Co-op uses (and, apparently, The Guardian too), Climate Care isn’t one of the companies on Defra’s list, which means that it doesn’t meet Defra’s guidelines. But are Defra’s guidelines really that good?

I came across an interesting article in The Guardian from last summer. At the end of the article, it mentions a not-for-profit Gold Standard method which accredits carbon off-setting projects (renewable energy and energy efficiency projects with sustainable development benefits). This rang a bell with what I’d seen on the Virgin website.

Virgin Atlantic have set up a scheme with myclimate, a Swiss not-for-profit foundation, that customers can use to offset their flights. myclimate have several projects, including some that have already achieved accreditation by the Gold Standard, which is supported by several groups, including Greenpeace.

You can be cynical about an air travel company providing this kind of service – obviously it’s great for their image – but it does look as if Virgin have spent a fair amount of effort on it. They even provide a page explaining how Virgin calculates the carbon emissions of their customers (we’re travelling Economy – hence my titular smugness).

So, having read around a bit about the Gold Standard method of assessing projects’ effectiveness, I decided to go with Virgin and myclimate’s service. And I’ll probably use myclimate in future too (although there are other companies and not-for-profits that have Gold Standard-accredited projects as well).