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This past week I took a loooooong (emphasis on long) road trip from Indianapolis to Maine. The round trip was almost 2000 miles!
It was great to see my family, but I was definitely concerned about how wasteful the trip had been from an environmental standpoint. After mulling it over (did I mention I had a lot of time to think on this long drive?!) I decided to look into purchasing a carbon offset to compensate for the 17+ hours worth of fossil fuel emissions I’d put into the world!
Thankfully, the process wasn’t as difficult as it had initially appeared!
So what are carbon offsets?
You’ve all heard of carbon footprints, right? Basically, the idea that all the stuff we use/consume that’s made with fossil fuels has a certain carbon emission associated with it. The total of all those things is your carbon footprint.
To cancel out the negative effects of carbon emission, individuals and businesses can purchase carbon offsets. An organization calculates the cost of your carbon emission and you pay the monetary equivalent.
Then, that money is put toward an existing project that’s reducing greenhouse emissions such as saving forests from destruction, funding alternative energy sources, enhancing clean water initiatives, and more.
How do I buy carbon offsets?
Before you buy, there are a couple things to consider. I really liked this article which did a great job laying out the important bits when choosing where to buy from.
The essential idea is you need to ensure you’re buying a legit carbon offset. The steps:
- is the offset real? ie. is there a real person/project this money will be going towards or is it a vague, general idea?
- is the offset verifiable and enforceable? ie. has a third party ensured that the situation is indeed real and that there will be penalties if the money is used improperly?
- is the offset permanent? ie. if the offset saves a swath of forest for six months but the owner later sells it, the offset was clearly ineffective.
How can you do all that? Luckily, it’s pretty easy. The Climate Action Reserve has a list of options for individuals and organizations alike. You can see the full list by clicking through below:
What did I do?
I ended up going with Native Energy because they were listed on the Climate Action Reserve list, took individual payments, and have a number of super handy calculators that helped me figure out what I owed for my trip. Cool Effect is also a great resource to see exactly where your money’s going!
Using their travel calculator, it estimated I had created 2 tons of CO2 from Indianapolis to Maine and back again.
The total cost of my carbon offset? Just $28.
I only wish that Native Energy could be a bit more specific about where my money was going (it would be interesting to know what project exactly it would be going toward), but other than that the process was quick, easy, and completely satisfying.
In the future, I’m planning to calculate my carbon footprint and pay towards that. First, though, I’m going to try to reduce my footprint as much as possible!
Have you ever purchased a carbon offset for your carbon footprint or for travel? Which company did you end up using?