Meet the Sierra Club, Your $6,000-a-Trip Travel Agency (Don’t Mind the Carbon Emissions)

The Sierra Club, the nation’s self-anointed environmental finger-waggers, hates it when you take a plane. “[E]ach flight you take does have an impact,” the Club notes. But don’t worry—it’s A-OK to take planes as long as you’re a part of the Sierra Club Outings program.

Over the next year the Sierra Club is offering over 300 trips for travelers with extra cash to all kinds of exotic locales, such as the Antarctic, northern Laos, Mongolia, and Botswana. The Sierra Club’s trip to Yunnan Province in southern China includes an international roundtrip flight and four flights inside China. (Heaven forbid Sierra Club travelers take a train.) Meanwhile, a flight from San Francisco to New Zealand—another Sierra Club destination, would create 5.44 tons of emissions, according to

These trips look even worse when you consider that the Club operates junkets to Tanzania for $6,000+ for affluent travelers while campaigning against coal excavation that would help power an energy-deprived continent and ease poverty. The message seems to be to enjoy the locals in their poverty—it’s quaint!

Interestingly, the Sierra Club has a travel policy that seems to contract this by aiming to “minimize the impacts on and use of land, airspace and waterways, minimize the consumption of limited resources, including fuel, and reduce pollutant and noise emissions.”

The Sierra Club can’t “minimize” fuel and airspace use if it is basically running a travel agency. So let’s be clear about what these trips are all about: The kind of “green” measured in bills. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Club either profited from these trips or earned a kickback from the carbon-offsetting company it gives money to in conjunction with this travel—or both.

The Sierra Club admits that its offsetting scheme “has some obvious pitfalls” such as that “[o]nce you have emitted carbon, it is released into the atmosphere and you can’t ‘take it back.’” Gee whiz, that’s certainly a snag.

Here’s another one: The trips are putting carbon into the atmosphere right now, yet the offset is some potential wind project that will be built sometime in the future, somewhere. The “offset” may not happen for years.

Contrast that with Sierra Club’s doomsday prophesizing that politicians need to act right now to stop the “climate crisis.” If Sierra Club wants to act right now before it’s “too late,” it should stop offering trips to all corners of the globe that require six plane tickets to get there and back.

In the end, it’s clear what kind of “green” the Sierra Club truly cares about.

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