Thursday, February 22, 2007

Offsetting Your Guilty Conscience

The question. What are carbon neutral or offset (also known as green tags) programs?

You can become carbon neutral by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that reduce carbon emissions. So on the one hand, you produce, and on the other, you reduce.

As I get ready to drive to the airport, hop a plane to NYC and use a cab to get to my final destination, I can’t help but think about what carbon issues I am causing with all this. My awareness for my carbon footprint came to me early on in my awakened green consciousness. As I result, I’ve bought my carbon neutral driving pass from An alternative is

As well, Cemil purchased a wind power card for our project, which looks like phone card. It is meant to offset the power we are consuming in the renovation process they are available in more “green” establishments like Whole Foods. Or go to the website,

Still, my guilty conscience is not totally assuaged by these actions (my boyfriend has termed my green tag investments as 21st century indulgences). I still feel as if I need to offset more of my lifestyle. The upcoming plane ride comes to mind. Just as I prepare for the trip but putting my toiletries in baggies and printing down my boarding card, I will buy my carbon offset for the jet fuel that is about to be consumed…. and the cab ride….. and the energy consumption from my hotel stay. When they say, nothing in life is free, believe it. That includes the energy we used and what it take to produce that energy. The environment deserves its fair share.

Think about it as you do your diet. You know that there is more than the food cost to the chocolate that you are about to consume. You’ve long gotten used to rationalizing to yourself that the eating it will mean 20 minutes more on the Stairmaster. Well the same holds true for energy consumption. Carbon neutral contributions are like your extra time on the treadmill.

Of course, there’s always controversy and a naysayer or two. Just recently, there was some press in the UK about the speculators who have set up scams and schemes under the guise of doing good Sadly, they have tarred the reputation of the good programs. My reason for this post is to set the record straight and provide links and information that will restore your interest or faith in continuing with the contributions.

More Information:

Several months ago, www.ecofabulous, ran a piece about carbon offsets by David Shearer (a respected eco-advisor,

His 6 questions are worth posting here as you vet the organizations you are thinking of contributing to:

1. Can you provide detailed information on specific projects that result from your offsets?

2. Which objective standards do you use to demonstrate the high quality of your offsets?

3. Have your offsets been verified against an objective standard by a credible third party source?

4. Do you sell offsets that reduce GHG emissions in the future? If so, how far in the future?

5. How permanent are your offsets - 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? Evidence of permanence?

6. If trees are used for offsets, how do you measure the carbon reductions? How do you ensure that they are not burned or cut down?

Other resources/research to explore: (to offset travel)

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