May 18, 2009

How to offset carbon emissions for travel and living

Take a look at the different actions you can take to reduce and offset the build-up of greenhouse gases

Human beings have needs which must be met. But in meeting those needs, our actions are causing a build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which are a consequence of the energy and the services we use every day. We burn fossil fuels for electricity in our homes and businesses, for transportation, and to manufacture the goods we buy and consume every day. Considering that doing without energy seems highly unlikely, we should at least take actions to offset our CO2 emissions. This is where carbon offsets come into play.
Carbon offsets are financial instruments representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions which allow governments, businesses, and individuals to compensate for their emissions. One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. Carbon offsets are bought by either governments and businesses to comply with restrictions on the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions allowed, or at a much smaller scale, by individuals, businesses, and governments that wish to mitigate their emissions. By participating in sustainable projects, we are generating offsets. Some of these projects include reforestation, energy efficiency projects, methane abatement, and the production of renewable energy, such as hydroelectric dams and wind farms.
Although these projects may seem unrelated to our daily lives, there are plenty of simple actions we can take to offset carbon emissions. Through more efficient heating, cooling, and lighting we can drastically reduce our energy consumption. By simply replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps and taking out our sweaters from the closet and lowering the thermostat during winter months, we are making a difference, believe it or not. Carpooling and using public transport are also simple actions that lessen our impact.
When traveling, many of us decide to fly to our destinations, either for comfort or to save time. Air travel, however, produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other form of transportation. We can make our travel greener by donating to a series of projects that help offset greenhouse gases resulting from our trips. The internet offers hundreds of sites introducing carbon offsetting projects to which you can make donations. The environmental impact of your flight is calculated and a price is allotted as to how much that impact actually costs. You donate that amount to the project, and thus offset the emissions caused by your flight. Several airlines throughout the world are also looking at neutralizing the effects of their flights on the environment, so before you buy your ticket, check if your airline company is involved in a carbon offset program.
Most carbon offset projects that you may participate in will not only reduce global carbon emissions, but will improve the quality of life of the populations where the projects are developed. Through a reforestation project, for example, we are not only reducing carbon emissions, but also providing a better education for children who would otherwise spend their time collecting wood for fuel. We are also helping preserve forests and providing a habitat of many plants and animals.
Participating in offsetting practices is not as difficult as it seems. There are numerous types of activities that can generate carbon offsets. We can modify many of our daily activities to reduce our carbon emissions, make donations to established carbon offset programs, or do business with companies and service providers that follow carbon offsetting practices. Whatever action we take, we must always study our options and choose transparent methods for mitigating our impact.


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