A breakdown of what common environmental lingo actually means.

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How can travelers distinguish between rigorous sustainability certifications and ones that just sound good? Illustration by Virginia Gabrielli.

Carbon neutral. Carbon offsets. Carbon onsets. As a sign of the tourism industry’s progress, these terms are now everywhere when you’re booking travel. More and more tour companies, hotels, and airlines are striving for meaningful change when it comes to the climate crisis. But how can travelers navigate their way through the badges and buzzwords, without getting caught up in greenwashing? Here are some pointers.

Clear up those carbon terms

The phrase carbon neutral means there’s no net addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. It involves “paying a third party to remove the greenhouse gas emissions you are responsible for so that your emissions balance is neutral,” says Patty Martin, a climate scientist working with the Travel Foundation, a U.K.-based sustainable tourism organization. “Through this approach, you never actually have to reduce your emissions, relying on others to offset your impact. Net zero is achieved when you no longer emit greenhouse gas emissions through your activities or behaviors, and only offset emissions that are not humanly possible to reduce.”

Seek out vetted certifications

Sustainability certifications have proliferated, and some are more rigorous than others. How do you distinguish between them? The answer is brought to you by the letters GSTC. That’s the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, an independent nonprofit whose members include governments, travel companies, tour operators, and NGOs. It doesn’t approve individual companies; rather, it vets the certifiers.

The council accredits eight bodies across destinations, tour operators, and hotels, and it has a map of places that “have traveled a long way down the path of sustainability.” 

You may discover a hotel or tour operator that isn’t certified but that “you very much appreciate and find to act responsibly,” says Roi Ariel, General Manager of the GSTC. “Here’s your chance to influence! Ask them if they use a sustainable tourism standard. Ask them if they seek certification.” He says that hearing directly from a customer can be a powerful motivator.

Continue reading the original article written by Tim Chester for Afar.com here: https://www.afar.com/magazine/carbon-neutral-net-zero-b-corp-what-do-these-terms-mean