Saturday, June 09, 2007

Reduce, renew, offset. (A guide to carbon offsets)

So you're concerned about climate change. You have every reason to be. You do your part by composting. Perhaps you've changed all the light bulbs in your house to compact florescent bulbs. You're car is a hybrid or maybe it runs on biodiesel, vegetable oil, or E85. Even better, you take transit or walk. You recycle plastics and ink cartridgesand everything you can think of. You are living your life in the most environmentally responsible way you know but you still want to do more.

On average, every American generates about 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year from personal transportation, home energy use and from the energy used to produce all of the products and services we use and consume. Want to know much you generate? Use a carbon use calculator to make an estimate. When you are doing all you can to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, consider buying renewable energy credits to offset the rest. Here's how to get started:

* Read The Consumers' Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers (a PDF file).

* Review this cost and performance comparison of carbon offset providers.

* Purchase your offsets. Consider one of these providers:
--> NativeEnergy is Native American-majority owned and offers "traditional renewable energy credits and offsets from operating new projects."
--> Green Tags offets support solar and wind power projects across North America.
--> The Climate Trust is a nonprofit offset provider.
--> TerraPass uses offsets to fund wind, biomass, and energy efficiency projects
--> Atmosfair focuses on offetting air travel.
--> Co2 Balance will calculate your carbon footprint, advise you how to reduce it to the minimum and then help you offset the rest.

Carbon offsets often take the form of renewable energy projects, energy efficiency programs and reforestation efforts. It's important to remember that your offset purchase must mean that something new happens (for example, a new windmill is constructed) that would not have happened without your purchase. Also, the action that you're buying must actually actually offset your carbon production. Here are a few organizations that certify carbon offsets:

* CDM Gold Standard
* Green-e
* Chicago Climate Exchange
* Environmental Resources Trust
* Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management

Carbon offsets aren't the only solution; we'll all have to make lifestyle changes because we can't buy ourselves out of the climate crises. But offsets can help. Remember, reduce your carbon emissions through decreased usage and increased energy efficiency, renew by choosing renewable energy sources like wind energy or biodiesel, and for the rest, offset. So check out renewable energy certificates. They make great gifts, for yourself, for others, for all of us.

"The greatest pleasure I have known, is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident." - Charles Lamb


Karama said...

This is also a nice guide on what to look for:

Karama said...

I just got my first TerraPass in the mail. I'm good for the next 20,000 miles! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm a nature lover, tree hugger, recycler, etc... so when it came time to buy a new car I thought I was doing a good thing by buying a flex fuel vehicle. Just got my car and excitedly told people at work that it runs on E85. Could believe all the negative comments from co-workers I got! From E85 plants cause more pollution to that's why my kids cereal and milk cost so much!
Help! Am I a bad person now? I thought I was doing a good thing.

Karama said...

Hi Anon,

You are doing a good thing. Ethanol from corn does have some problems but it is not the source of high food prices. Blame increased oil and petroleum prices instead. Fossil fuels are used to process and transport many of our foods and with oil prices at near $70 a barrel, the cost is being transmitted to consumers. Once cellulosic ethanol comes online, E85 will be an even better choice, for the environment and for the economy.

Thanks for reading, and please come back again soon.