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Taylor Swift claims she offsets her private jet usage — but what does that really mean?

Swift and her team have worked to address the criticism.

Swift and her team have worked to address the criticism.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

If Taylor Swift's private jet could talk, it would probably say, "It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me." 

Despite Swift's enormously successful career, rising to superstardom and entertaining millions, many have been quick to criticize her private jet use for its environmental impact. 

In 2022 alone, Swift's private jet trips resulted in over 18 million pounds of planet-overheating pollution, as cited in a USA Today Network article. This spurred angry internet users to berate her and track her flights. One online plant database, Krado, even calculated Swift would need to buy about 30 billion houseplants to offset the pollution produced by her jet usage across 2022.

Of course, the pop star realistically can't just hop on a normal flight without getting mobbed. But this reality doesn't make the pollution from her jet travel disappear, particularly when considering any shorter or unnecessary trips that did not require flying.

So, in an effort to address some of her jet-setting-related criticism, Swift and her team have offset her flights' environmental impact.

How did Swift offset her flights?

Swift's publicist, Tree Paine, told Bloomberg News that the star bought over double the number of carbon offsets needed to account for her Eras Tour travels. 

Scott Keyes, the founder of the travel company Going, explained to the BBC why Swift's offsets matter: "Carbon offsets can counteract otherwise hard-to-eliminate emissions … It isn't her intention to spew tons of carbon. Spewing carbon is an externality (an unintended consequence) of flying … [Swift's] carbon credits matter because they're an attempt to put a price on that externality."

Why are flights offset?

Buying carbon offsets is a common strategy to mitigate the environmental impact of air travel, an industry that's notoriously difficult to rid of pollution.

Offsets are certificates associated with projects that reduce carbon pollution from the atmosphere. They could be tied to projects like tree planting, protecting or restoring vulnerable ecosystems, or even funding clean energy projects.

Carbon offsets have an enormous potential to help our society reduce the amount of pollution in the atmosphere. Despite this, companies like Shell and ExxonMobil, in addition to the offsetting industry as a whole, have taken criticism for buying and selling carbon offsets that were not actually helping to decrease the amount of pollution in the air. 

In other words, there's a wide spectrum of how useful a carbon credit or offset actually is for the same dollar value. And unfortunately, Swift and her reps haven't publicly confirmed which company they worked with to buy the offsets, which Bloomberg further reported, even saying Swift's publicist "didn't respond to multiple requests for clarification and further information on the credits Swift bought." So it's hard to evaluate how well those efforts will go toward making up for all that jet fuel, though assuming it's true, buying double is at least a sign of good faith.

"If anyone — a company, a wealthy person, an airline — says they're buying carbon credits, it's basically meaningless unless they're going to say which credits they bought," said Barbara Haya, director of the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project, in the Bloomberg report.

While numerous offset projects haven't lived up to their promises, many still can help the environment. Wren, one company that sells offsets, has underscored the importance of transparency when it comes to offsetting activities like flights. Wren makes sure that all of its offsets are verified by third parties and tracked for accuracy so that its users aren't kept in the dark. 

Other solutions

But one of the main factors that sets Wren apart from other offset vendors is its clarity about solving the planet's overheating. 

The company acknowledges that buying offsets, while important, is not how we get ourselves out of this crisis. Wren recommends, for example, also supplying your home with clean energy, either through rooftop solar panels or with a community solar subscription. 

So while Swift's use of offsets may get her out of some PR trouble, if she wants to create a better future for us all, she should go beyond offsetting her flights and invest in promoting a clean energy future. 

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