Mitigating Your Footprint with Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsets offer a way to mitigate the footprint of our everyday lives, by giving money to tree-planting projects or other enterprises that are specifically intended to mitigate carbon emissions. I got interested in carbon offsets as a way to mitigate my travel footprint, but they can be used to mitigate any aspect of one’s footprint. It’s not perfect, but it’s a tool that’s available to us for those cases when we don’t feel able to just cut out an area of consumption.

I once purchased carbon offsets for a train trip to visit my family in Virginia. If I recall correctly, the offset cost me just a couple of dollars.

I have largely given up flying, but I once purchased offsets to mitigate a couple decades of my past air travel. I think it cost me about $137 or something. Now I’m going to look into proactively purchasing offsets for the occasional Uber rides and other car rides I take.

There are various online vendors of carbon offsets. Whichever site you choose, look for the Gold Standard. The Gold Standard is the standard that’s recommended by eco experts I look to for guidance.

This site Offset Your Emissions: The Gold Standard – goldstandard.org gives an overview, and right there on the page are a number of projects you can choose from. This site is good for offsetting your overall emissions; for a site that lets you calculate and offset the impact of a specific trip, see the link in the next paragraph. The price and the amount of carbon emissions offset are displayed; you just click and buy. The projects tend to have an element of improving the lives of people in other countries (for example, creating jobs through tree-planting in Timor-Leste; improving public health through water-quality improvement in Laos) while you are helping to mitigate your household’s footprint. The site also has a carbon calculator, or you can just use their average monthly estimates for countries around the world. (Citizens of USA, Canada, and Australia emit an average of 2 tons a month, while in most of Europe and developing countries it’s 1 ton a month.)

Calculate and offset the impact of a specific flight or other trip: cooleffect.org