I’ve talked about carbon offsets before, but now is the time to walk the walk! Short of not flying (a Big Change you can make to reduce your carbon footprint), what to do if you fly? Our family of four recently took a holiday trip, and I paid for our first ever carbon offsets.
We could NOT live in Hawaii, we could NOT take vacations, we could NOT leave the island, we could travel by wind powered sailboat, but these are all not practical for our family. I believe that for climate change solutions to work, we need to push the envelope on technology to be cleaner and more efficient. We also need to push ourselves to change behaviors. Sure, there are some people who make the personal choice disavow technology and move into a cave (see NRDC article below), but what about a middle ground?
So, what to do if you fly? One way to offset the massive CO2 emission is to purchase carbon offsets. There are a lot of opinions about this: carbon offsets are a license to pollute, allowing you to pay someone else to NOT pollute. The flip side is that if done right, it can be a practical tool to reduce your carbon footprint. I think the bigger goal is to always think about reducing your own emissions, in as many ways as you can, Big and Small. Our family has solar, we drive EV cars, and we live in a state that has pledged to be fossil fuel independent by 2040. For now, I think carbon offsetting could play a role, especially if done well.
What is “well” in terms of offsets? This article from the Natural Resource Defense Council provides a nice overview. The organization you choose to give money to, should actually, reduce carbon emissions permanently in a verifiable and enforceable way. This is where Gold Standard comes in.
Gold Standard allows you to read about and research various carbon reduction programs. I let the kids go through and figure out what organization they would like to pick.
Boy #1 picked: Saving the Bengal tiger through the dissemination of improved cookstoves. He loves tigers, so this is special.
Boy #2 picked: Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH), restoring the native forests. He’s been learning Hawaiian history, so this is on his mind.
My husband and I picked: Safe Access to Water in Rwanda. In a former life I researched women’s health in Rwanda, so this cause is dear to me.
So here are the steps:
1. Calculate your carbon footprint: I used Terrapass. Click individual calculator, and start plugging in your latest air travel information, by specific flight, trip length, miles or gallons of fuel. It spits out a footprint in lbs. or metric ton. You want mT. We used 2 mT of CO2 per person for our recent holiday trip.
2. You can buy offsets directly from Terrapass, but I like Gold Standard because you can choose and research your offsets. Head to Gold Standard if that is what you choose.
3. Research your organizations. My friend told me that Hawaiian Hardwoods was having some financial troubles, and upon further research I discovered that they were involved in some sort of lawsuit and breach of contract. Honestly, my head hurt a little after trying to wade through this contract business, so I decided I might just wait to get more information and donate double to brother’s Bengal tiger fund. I researched the cookstoves and found that there does appear to be accountability and follow up. I found several reports on the water project in Rwanda, with follow up visits from the parent organization, CO2balance, detailing that the water access and hygiene projects were still being used one year later and hadn’t broken. Good sign!
4. Add the number of tons of carbon offset to your cart, per project. In our case, 2 tons per person. 4 tons to the Rwanda project ($12 per ton) and 4 tons to the Sloth project ($18 per ton). I discovered the Bengal tiger project was already fully funded, so I switched to a similar reforestation project to save the sloths.
5. Pay for your offsets: the website linked me to PayPal, I paid my $48, and that was that. Pretty easy.
Do I feel better? A little. Do I still feel guilty about flying? A little. Do I want to see my family and the world? Yes. Can we constantly push ourselves to do a little more to help our planet? I think so!