The 747 Formula

This article is an excerpt from our full article on How To Offset The Carbon Footprint Of Your Flights, and shares only the equation to do so.

The 747 Formula

We’ve created the “7-4-7” formula (yes, a pun on the Boeing 747) to help you offset the carbon footprint of your travel. The formula, which breaks your carbon offset into three categories, is effective and approachable, increasing the likelihood of adoption, which might be the essential action needed today. The first two categories are based on the “durability” of the solution as defined by Microsoft’s Corporate Sustainability Group, which, simply put, is how long we can expect the solution to remain a solution. A great example is the durability of tree planting; what happens when planted trees burn in a forest fire or naturally die and begin to decompose (both of which will emit carbon back into the atmosphere)? The final category focuses on awareness and education, vital components in solving this little conundrum we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Step 1) Calculate Your Travel’s CO2 Emissions

Use an online calculator, like this one from, to see how much CO2 is emitted from your flights and car travel. Jot this number down.

Step 2) Calculate Your Total Travel Time

Add up all of the time you are in the car or on the plane and moving. Exclude layovers. Jot this number down as well.

Step 3) Immediately remove 7% of your emissions with Direct Air Capture

Visit Climeworks, click “customize”, change the frequency to “One-time”, and pay a “Custom amount” that removes 7% of the CO2 you calculated in Step 1.

Direct Air Capture can sequester carbon for thousands of years, literally sucking carbon dioxide out of the air and putting it deep in the ground where it originally came from. This “engineered” technology is as close to a permanent solution as possible, making it extremely resilient and earning the label of “high durability”. Pulling air via massive industrial fans through filters to capture and process carbon dioxide and then placing it thousands of feet underground is an expensive operation, but it’s the most effective solution available to immediately reverse the emissions we cause and needs to be a part of any offset strategy. This component kickstarts your offset nicely and immediately removes 7% of your emissions out of the air.

Example: One economy seat going from LAX to JFK and back is responsible for 1300 kg of emissions. 7% of this is 91kg, meaning ~$130 USD needs to be paid to immediately pull those 91 kgs of carbon out of the atmosphere.

Step 4) Plant 4 trees for every hour you travel

Visit the website of a tree planting non-profit, such as One Tree Planted or The Nature Conservancy, and donate enough to plant 4 trees for every hour you calculated in Step 2.

Tree planting is defined as a “low durability” solution—an initiative that sequesters carbon for less than 100 years and has inherent reversal risks (such as trees burning prematurely). The math of offsetting carbon emissions with tree planting is extremely difficult to nail down. One mature tree will absorb roughly 50 lbs or 22 kg of carbon dioxide each year, but how long that tree lives before it burns or begins to decay and emit sequestered carbon right back into the atmosphere is a complete unknown. It also takes 20-30 years for a tree to mature, so this solution kicks the can down the road quite a bit. Fortunately, planting trees is the cheapest carbon offset option available, so we feel it’s best to vastly overshoot this component of your contribution, and calculate based on how many mature trees it would take to sequester emissions in one year. This is roughly 4 trees per hour you travel.

Example: One economy seat going from LAX to JFK and back would take 12 hours of air travel. 48 trees should be planted.

Step 5) Donate $7 for every hour you travel to awareness & education initiatives

Visit the website of a climate change educator, such as Project Drawdown or Kiss The Ground, and donate $7 for every hour you calculated in Step 2.

The amount of information and misinformation flying around us at all times is dizzying and causes serious climate change confusion. Knowledge is the ultimate power, so it must be a part of the solution. While awareness and education don’t pull carbon out of the air directly, they certainly help reduce how much is emitted moving forward, which is actually the quickest solution to our problem. This element is extremely hard to quantify, but we recommend donating $7 per every hour you travel.

Example: One economy seat going from LAX to JFK and back would take 12 hours of air travel. $84 should be donated to climate change awareness and education to aid in offsetting future emissions.

Total Example: In total, one roundtrip LAX-JFK economy ticket takes ~$260 USD to offset (as of 2023), and a business class ticket takes $500 USD.

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