It's the Environment, Stupid.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Carbon Neutral

Yesterday was a travel day for me. Flew from NYC to Seattle via LAX. Next week I'll be attending the World Urban Forum in Vancouver, BC (driving up to BC via my car).

With all this carbon heavy travel I seem to be logging lately, it made me wonder if I should go carbon neutral. Part of my reluctance though is I'm not completely sold on the carbon offset thing. To me it seems as though it's just a way to assuage the guilty conscience of the enviro and socially aware, and is planting a tree really going to reduce CO2 as much as reducing emissions at the source? (Although, I suppose it is better than doing nothing at all.)

Then I got to thinking - how the heck do you even purchase these personal carbon credits? What's the going rate? Google 'buy carbon offset' or 'purchase carbon offset' and it comes back with info on what a carbon offset is, and advertised links on organizations or companies that have purchased carbon offsets. has a table which lists a handful of organizations and associated carbon prices in US dollars/CO2 metric ton ranging from $5 to $30. Scroll down and it also lists some of the offset programs offered, such as tree planting/reforestation certificates or renewable energy credits. In reading a few of the descriptions for some of these programs, it really seems like a small scale Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as laid out in the Kyoto Protocol. The rich may continue to pollute as long as they give money to fund a small renewable energy program in a small village or impoverished community in a "developing" country.

One is The Carbon Neutral Company in the UK. "[W]e select projects that soak up, reduce, or avoid carbon emissions. Examples are: Renewable energy projects which avoid the use of fossil fuels; Energy efficiency projects which reduce the use of fossil fuels; Sequestration projects which soak up or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere." Their criteria for these projects such as implementing technologies not already used locally, and making sure projects are monitored by a third party as laid out by their CarbonNeutral Protocol (accessible at their site as a pdf - which was slow to download on the connection I'm at today, but I'll check it out later.)

This is definitely something I'll need to look into further - if you have any tips let me know. I'm out of time right now, as I'm at a suburbia Seattle coffee shop (locally owned) and while I've got a day pass to their wireless service, my two hour parking spot is about to expire...


  • I wrote about offsetting my Singapore trip here:

    I'm for renewable energy programs vs. planting a tree because at least we're advancing that market with our dollars.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 00:49  

  • Another UK organisation is Climate Care . I used them to offset my emmissions when I was a sole trader which was good marketing because I was attempting to be an expert in sustainable development. Haven't done it since, which makes me something of a hypocrite I now see.

    I don't fly though and I was interested in the Worsted Witch's post on offsetting the Singapore trip. Is it ever ethical to fly? Is it more ethical to fly and offset than just to fly?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13:45  

  • Hi Ben,

    I think not visiting your aging parents is completely unethical so flying and offsetting is the best course of action ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 18:05  

  • I looked at the Ecobusinesslinks site when offsetting my in-laws' easyJet flights to visit the grandkids. It's a good starting point, but I wonder whether it's best to choose based solely on price.

    In the end I went with another UK organisation, Carbon Clear. Their approach seemed less judgemental, and their site devotes more space to talking about the projects they choose. They seem to care about the projects even beyond the carbon credits.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:28  

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