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Carbon offsetting made easy: The power of default options in air travel

How can travel companies and airlines use default options to encourage travellers to offset their carbon emissions?

With the increasing demand for air travel, there is also a growing concern about the impact it has on the environment. In recent years, there has been a significant rise in carbon offsetting as a way of compensating for the emissions generated by air travel. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Cologne in Germany and the University of Bern has shown that default options can play a significant role in facilitating the adoption of carbon offsetting in air travel.

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Surveying Carbon Offset

The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, was conducted through a series of online surveys in which participants were asked about their willingness to offset the carbon emissions generated by their air travel. The researchers found that when participants were presented with the option to offset their carbon emissions as a default, they were more likely to do so than when the option was not presented as the default.

Our research shows that default options can play a crucial role in encouraging the adoption of carbon offsetting in air travel. When offsetting is made the default, it becomes easier for people to take action and offset their emissions, even if they are not actively thinking about it.

Dr. Axel Ockenfels

The importance of default options

The results of the study highlight the importance of default options in encouraging the adoption of environmentally friendly practices. In recent years, default options have been used in various fields, including energy conservation, organ donation, and retirement savings, to name a few. The study shows that the same principles can be applied to carbon offsetting in air travel.

When offsetting is made the default, it becomes the norm, and people are more likely to follow it, even if they are not actively thinking about it. This makes it easier for people to take action, as they do not have to make a conscious decision to offset their emissions each time they travel.

The researchers also found that when participants were given the option to opt out of carbon offsets rather than opt in, they were more likely to offset their emissions. This suggests that when people are given the option to choose not to offset their emissions, they are more likely to do so than when they have to actively opt-in.

The benefits of carbon offsetting in air travel

Carbon offsetting in air travel has a range of benefits, both for the environment and for individuals. By offsetting their emissions, travelers can reduce the impact of their air travel on the environment and contribute to efforts to tackle climate change.

In addition, carbon offsetting can also have financial benefits, as it can help to offset the cost of air travel. By offsetting their emissions, travelers can ensure they are paying the full cost of their air travel, including the environmental impact. This can help to create a more sustainable and equitable system of air travel.

Travel companies to make use of findings

The study shows that default options can play a crucial role in encouraging the adoption of carbon offsetting in air travel. By making offsetting the default, it becomes easier for people to take action and offset their emissions, even if they are not actively thinking about it.

The results of the study highlight the importance of default options in promoting environmentally friendly practices and suggest that the same principles can be applied to other areas.

The study is a significant contribution to the ongoing efforts to reduce the impact of air travel on the environment. By demonstrating the power of default options, it provides valuable insights into the strategies that can be used to encourage travellers to offset their carbon emissions.

Travel companies and airlines can take advantage of these findings by incorporating carbon offsetting into their booking processes as a default option, making it easier for travelers to take action. They can also provide clear and concise information about the benefits of carbon offsetting and the impact it has on the environment to further encourage travellers to offset their emissions.


In conclusion, the study highlights the potential of default options in facilitating the adoption of carbon offsetting in air travel and the importance of making environmentally friendly practices easier and more accessible. So next time you’re planning a Spain vacation, consider offsetting your emissions to help reduce the impact of your travel on the environment.

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Journal reference

Berger, S., Kilchenmann, A., Lenz, O., Ockenfels, A., Schlöder, F., & Wyss, A. M. (2022). Large but diminishing effects of climate action nudges under rising costs. Nature Human Behaviour, 6(10), 1381–1385. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01379-7