What are carbon offsets…and why should I care?

Posted By Holly Olsen / March 23, 2017 / 0 Comments

This post addresses Global Goal 13: Climate Action (take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts)

E8E40276-16F5-46D3-BADD-46DDE73C4C6F

We just returned from an amazing trip to Costa Rica (don’t hate us)! It was truly beautiful and so much fun. We played in the ocean, soaked in the sun on pristine beaches, hiked to a gorgeous waterfall, and saw some incredible wildlife, but you want to know the best part? The flight was carbon neutral!

If you don’t know what that means, hang in there, it is pretty cool, and super important. Here’s the thing: As a family, we love to travel. There are six of us in the sky when we fly, so our carbon footprint is significant, but it doesn’t have to be.

FullSizeRender (13)

Carbon Footprint

Carbon emissions hurt the planet, deplete the ozone layer, pollute the air, and accelerate climate change. A carbon footprint is defined as the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.

To give you an idea of what that means:

  • A trip from LA to NYC equals .58 metric TONS of carbon emissions. In our case, multiply that by six, and you have 4.04 metric TONS of carbon in the air thanks to our little adventure. Ouch. The guilt of that knowledge would be enough to quell our wanderlust a bit, but thankfully, there are ways to offset the carbon we put out. Basically, we can travel guilt-free, and help save our planet!
  • Every mile you fly equates to over 53 pounds of carbon emissions. (And, incidentally, every gallon of gasoline you use equals over 18 pounds of carbon emissions… yeah…. And for every pound of beef you eat? 60 pounds of carbon emissions!)

In a nutshell, if you live in a developed country, it is safe to assume that your carbon footprint is too high and it is not sustainable for our survival.

 

Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Thankfully, there some well-established and reputable companies that allow you to purchase carbon offsets, which work as trades. They do this in a number of ways. When you buy a carbon offset, the money can be used to restore rainforests, invest in wind and solar energy, harness waste energy from landfills, etc.  So, when we purchased carbon offsets for our recent trip to Costa Rica, we paid a little extra to ensure that our hefty flight carbon emissions were offset, pound for pound with green investments…and it felt great! (Thank you, Travellight!). 

Actually, I learned that you can purchase offsets not just for travel, but for weddings (what a cool gift idea!!), an event, your car, your house, businesses, any gift, … anything, really.

There are many companies that do this. It is always smart to check their reputation. We like Carbon Fund as they are a non-profit (tax-deductible), transparent with finances, and have the highest score possible on Charity Navigator. Terrapass is another noteworthy company worth considering.

 

Will it Really Make a Difference?

Some would argue that we are just paying off our guilt. Sure, that may be true, but would that be such a bad thing in this case? It is actually the first step in the larger commitment to offset all of our carbon – from electric usage at home, to miles driven in our car, to even the packaging of products that we choose to buy.

My justification in buying offsets is that I’m putting dollars into the pockets of the renewable economy. The stronger that industry gets, the more hope we have of a sustainable future – the closer we get to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).

I understand that one person or even one family offsetting their carbon may seem like spit in the ocean. Can it really make a difference? I believe it will (collectively our numbers are quite large!). I don’t have the exact answer, but at least I’m spitting into that ocean. I’m trying.

IMG_6882

Commitment: Offset travel carbon this year!

So, in order to put our money where our mouths are (er, keyboard), our family is committing to offset our travel carbon this year, and hopefully every year. That being said, I want to recognize that the ability to offset one’s carbon is a privilege. Not everyone can afford to add one more cost to a vacation or monthly budget. I get that. This post is not about shaming or making anyone feel guilty for anything. It is about spreading awareness regarding carbon emissions, carbon offsets, and the Global Goals.

There are plenty of things that can be done to reduce your carbon footprint that don’t cost any extra, Here are a few:

  • Drive less! (carpool, bike, walk, use public transportation, combine errands, avoid traffic, ensure proper tire inflation, etc.)
  • When you fly, fly economy class (this is good because it works the same way that carpooling works – the more people that fit in a flight, the better)
  • Unplug devices that are not in use, turn off lights and electronics when not in use.
  • Eat locally produced foods (organic when possible), and cut or reduce beef and dairy products.
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle! This works with water consumption (reduce), clothing, and so much more!
  • Offset your utility bill by switching companies to one that does it automatically like Viridian and others.

Ultimately, we can all do our part to slow the effects of climate change. In the words of Leonardo DiCaprio, “This is not a partisan debate; it is a human one. Clean air and water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It is our moral obligation.”

What will YOU commit to do this year to reduce your carbon footprint?

 

holly

Holly Olsen is a mother of four daughters. She has a long history of activism, creating ripples that have been recognized by the United Nations humanitarian endeavors and Global Citizen. She is a published author, a co-founder of two non-profit organizations, a professor, and is known for her ability to create positive social change. In her blog, you will read about her adventures with and attempts to further the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).

Related Posts

No comments

No comments

Leave a reply

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *