THE Co-operative Group has become the first retailer to move carbon offsetting from the internet into the high street, making it an easy purchase for people who want to tackle climate change.
It has announced that customers of its travel business, Travelcare, will be able to counter the environmental effects of their holiday flights by buying carbon offset at its branches.
It means that for the first time UK consumers can walk into a high street retail outlet and buy carbon dioxide offset on the spot - previously they had to use the internet.
Initially carbon offset will be available at pilot branches, but will be rolled out to all 340 Travelcare outlets by the end of the year, making carbon offsetting as simple as other travel purchases.
Travelcare's initiative means that, to help combat climate change, holidaymakers can voluntarily pay a small sum which will go towards offsetting in full, or in part, the carbon dioxide cost of their flight. Aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Eight cost bands have been established, reflecting the distance travelled. For example, it will cost holidaymakers travelling to France and mainland Spain £ 3 to fully carbon offset their trip. Alternatively, customers can elect to offset 20 per cent (this being the UK Government's target for CO2 reduction by 2010), which would cost them 60p.
The Co-operative Group guarantees that all carbon offset payments will support its Climate Care projects, such as the provision of household "biogas" systems that provide renewable cooking fuel and wind turbines in India. Last year the Group supported Climate Care to the tune of £ 250,000.
Paul Kendrick, Travelcare's head of strategic development, said: "Air travel is a part of everyday life and people continue to want to take a holiday. We recognise that more and more travellers are becoming concerned about the impact their holidays have on the climate. This initiative - a high street first - makes it easy for them to neutralise the biggest environmental impact of their holiday, the flight.
"This is another important step for the Co-operative Group, which has for some time been at the forefront of the battle against climate change. We led the switch to green electricity back in 1998 and began pioneering good quality offsets with Co-operative Bank mortgages in 2000.
"The pressing need for the UK to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions significantly now means that all available tools will need to be deployed in the problematic growth area of aviation. Until now that has been quite difficult to calculate but we have made it really easy and we can assure customers that all the contributions will go directly to Climate Care and that we will not profit from it."