Worried about your carbon footprint? This app can help you offset it

Whether you've just flown across the country or you're planning a road trip, 'Aerial' wants to help you save the environment while you're at it.

Carbon footprints: we all have them, many of us are trying to reduce them, and few of us feel confident that we know the best way to do so. That’s why Andreas Homer, Ebby Amir, and Ari Sawyers created 'Aerial,' a simple tool for offsetting your carbon emissions.

Matt Wille / Input

Aerial’s goal is to make carbon offsetting easy for the average smartphone user, and to that effect, it’s doing incredibly well. The interface is sleek and intuitive, so there’s essentially no learning curve to getting started with it. In fact, Aerial does pretty much everything for you — all you have to do is log in and let the algorithms do their work.

The app launches today in the Apple App Store. Given the right exposure, Aerial has the potential to make a serious impact on our individual contributions to climate change.

Matt Wille / Input

Once you’ve downloaded the app, all you have to do is log in with your Gmail account. Aerial then scours your inbox for the last few years’ worth of travel receipts from airlines and ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber. It then calculates the approximate amount of carbon those trips have produced and links you to organizations through which you can purchase offsets.

Offsets? Isn’t that a rapper? — Well, yes. But the offsets we’re talking about are a little more important to the survival of the planet.

Carbon offsets are a way that individuals and corporations can mitigate their contributions to climate change. They’re essentially monetary donations that go toward planet-saving measures like planting trees. The production of carbon is a necessary evil of modern living, but carbon offsets provide a useful harm-reduction strategy.

Give this to the corporations — We would be remiss not to mention that, while our individual contributions do matter, they pale in comparison to those made by large corporations. Twenty fossil fuel companies produce about 35 percent of all worldwide carbon emissions. Some big companies, like Google and Apple, have taken concrete, meaningful steps toward reducing their emissions — others could definitely use an app like this to remind them of the damage they’re inflicting on the environment.

There are some caveats to using Aerial. It’s not going to give you a firm total for your carbon footprint, because it’s only able to calculate based on what it finds in your inbox. Trips you take in your own car, the purchase of goods, resources like heating and electricity, none of these are factored into its calculations. And if you're not using Gmail you're out of luck, too.

Still, having a reminder of our individual impact on climate change is valuable, especially given how easy Aerial makes it, and doubly so if it makes us reconsider our actions or take steps to mitigate their effects.