The world’s first carbon-removal collective for the travel industry offers climate-clever travelers and small businesses the ability to contribute directly to carbon removal and storage.
Global warming. Carbon offsets. Greenhouse gases. Gigatons.
Regardless of how we try to talk about the climate emergency, it’s easy to feel bogged down in concepts and complexity. The intricacies of the increasingly dire climate situation around the world is so intangible and relatively slow to manifest; it can be understandably difficult to grasp what, exactly, the problem is and what, exactly, the average person can do to meaningfully address it.
For years, Christina Beckmann felt like climate action was an esoteric abstract dictated by policies and investments made by people she didn’t have access to. Stemming from the urgency of the climate emergency and her own desire to do something about it, she co-founded Tomorrow’s Air with social entrepreneur Nim De Swardt.
“I think a lot of people feel that way — that they want to be able to take climate action into their own hands, to do something,” Beckmann said. “Tomorrow’s Air is a way for those people to take action.”
Launched in July 2020, Tomorrow’s Air is the world’s first carbon-removal collective for travelers. Incubated by the Adventure Travel Trade Association and launched in collaboration with direct air-capture company Climeworks, the initiative offers climate-clever travelers the ability to purchase ready-made subscription packages for carbon removal and storage.
There’s good reason for travelers to take action: The travel and tourism industry accounted for approximately 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions between 2009 and 2013 — a number that was expected to grow in the following years as the industry underwent substantial growth.
Generally speaking, for the last several years, talk about the climate emergency emphasized the need to minimize the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Urgent action encouraged doubling down on renewable energy sources, putting more energy-efficient systems and practices in place, cutting off particularly dangerous pollutants such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and stopping deforestation.
Within the tourism industry, the “solution” for addressing the climate emergency has largely focused on investing in carbon-offset credits, which are measurable emission reductions from certified offset projects such as planting trees. For many climate-conscious leisure travelers, this has meant using carbon-offset schemes to calculate and purchase credits to offset air travel as part of their sustainability practices.
However, the latest science reports have made it clear that to avoid the worst-case scenarios of climate change, reducing carbon emissions is not enough. It is essential to remove and store some of the carbon that has already made its way into the atmosphere. In declaring a climate emergency, travel-related corporations are addressing carbon emission reduction and removal through larger-scale solutions. For its part, the airline industry has been experimenting with a variety of sustainable aviation fuels and emissions-reducing behavior-change initiatives.
Nonetheless, individual engagement and action matter, too; and that’s where Tomorrow’s Air steps in as a unique solution to this urgent problem.
“This is something that requires collective action,” Beckmann said. While Tomorrow’s Air has the capacity to work with large companies and destinations interested in purchasing large volumes of carbon dioxide, its work is heavily focused on engaging small businesses and individual travelers. In 2019, there were approximately 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals — a number that doesn’t take domestic travel into account. “What if some tiny proportion of them chipped in on carbon removal? We could have impact,” Beckmann said.
Yet, one of the stumbling blocks to activating travelers is the complexity of global warming and carbon removal. This inaccessibility drives the traveler outreach and engagement projects within Tomorrow’s Air, which serve as an introduction to carbon removal and a funnel toward the initiative’s subscription service. These include a light-hearted podcast ("Airrows on Air"), and the Artists for Air Network — an initiative highlighting creative work meant to inspire and educate others about climate action in an accessible way.
Additionally, Tomorrow’s Air has partnered with Airbnb to offer virtual tours of Climeworks, where armchair travelers can learn about and see carbon removal in action.
“We are trying to find all the ways we can to make climate action — and carbon removal, in particular — accessible, inspiring, fun and cool,” Beckmann said. Once Tomorrow’s Air has captured travelers’ attention, they are invited sign a clean-up pact and learn more about the carbon-removal process through the platform’s easy-to-read 101 educational information.
The goal is to get travelers to financially invest in carbon removal. Tomorrow’s Air offers subscription services at three levels pay for the removal and permanent storage of a certain amount of carbon from the atmosphere. Those subscribing at the Champion and Leader levels have access to benefits from several travel companies and gear brands — including exclusive customer service support, and discount products and services.
Ultimately, though, Tomorrow’s Air hopes to activate carbon removal on a massive scale, driving the cost down while also mainstreaming both conversation and action — from the largest companies and governments to each individual person.
“This is the biggest problem in the world. Everyone needs to find a way into this problem,” Beckmann said. “We all have to fight.”