Carbon Offset Guide
It’s the last Conservation Blog of 2022! The end of the year is always a poignant time as we look back and reflect on the previous 12 months. For me, this includes reminiscing on memories with loved ones and the trips I’ve taken throughout the year.
While I’m eternally grateful to have chances to travel, from a conservation standpoint, being on the move raises some concerns (1,000 miles of air travel generates approximately 500 pounds of carbon emissions per passenger). Even if you’ve had a more settled year, regular commutes to and from work, school, the grocery store, plus the many other ways we expend energy and produce waste, can begin to take a toll when it comes to your carbon footprint.
A person’s carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane generated by our actions. The average carbon footprint per person in the United States is roughly 16 tons. Scientists estimate that to avoid a 2℃ rise in global temperatures (the threshold that would mark “a profoundly disrupted climate with fiercer storms, higher seas, animal and plant extinctions, disappearing coral, melting ice and more people dying from heat, smog and infectious disease,” according to PBS) the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050.
At first glance, that’s a pretty big leap. But as we’ve discussed throughout the year, there are many feasible, everyday actions that make a big difference in reducing your carbon footprint, such as cutting back on meat consumption, using eco settings on your laundry and HVAC systems, and being intentional about your household, clothing, and food shopping. One action that is particularly impactful in reducing your carbon footprint is purchasing carbon offsets, and the reflective nature of the year end is a perfect time to do it.
Carbon offsets are “a way to balance out your pollution by investing in projects that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere” (Washington Post). Offset projects implement actions to contain carbon dioxide to “reservoirs of carbon like trees, soils, and wetlands or by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from such sources as landfills, farms, and coal mines” (NRDC). In essence, the idea behind carbon offsets is that the carbon-reducing tons you purchase neutralize the carbon tons you’ve produced.
How it works:
If you’re interested in purchasing carbon offsets, the first step is to calculate your carbon footprint. Calculators give an estimate based on four main categories of household consumption: transportation, housing, food, and goods, services, and leisure. You can find a list of carbon footprint calculators here. Offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent, so the estimate from the calculator will give you a ballpark of how many offsets you need to purchase to neutralize your carbon footprint for the year.
Pick a Project:
As with anything, you should thoroughly research any project you’re interested in purchasing offsets from. Offset projects are a fairly new concept, and thus lack universal regulations, so you want to make sure you’re picking a project with transparent practices and an objective regulatory body. You can find lists of reputable projects here, but there are plenty more out there to choose from.
The best part about carbon offset projects is that they can have benefits beyond just environmental impacts. Many projects also revitalize local ecosystems and provide better quality of life for marginalized communities, so you can pick a cause that is meaningful to you. OneHealth anyone?
As always, we would like to thank you for any and all efforts to better steward our planet. Going into 2023, we are especially grateful for our community and supporters, and excited to see what we will accomplish together next year!
Beale, A. (2021, February 7). 7 Best Carbon Footprint Calculators. Footprint Hero. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://footprinthero.com/best-carbon-footprint-calculators
Borenstein, S. (2022, April 13). Study finds nations can keep global warming to 2 degrees if pledges are met. Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/study-finds-nations-can-keep-global-warming-to-2-degrees-if-pledges-are-met
Buis, A. (2019, June 19). A Degree of Concern: Why Global Temperatures Matter. NASA’s Global Climate Change Website. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2865/a-degree-of-concern-why-global-temperatures-matter/
Calculate Your Carbon Footprint. The Nature Conservancy. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/#:~:text=A%20carbon%20footprint%20is%20the,is%20closer%20to%204%20tons.
Compton, N. B. (2019, September 18). 6 questions about carbon offsets for flights, answered. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/tips/questions-about-carbon-offsets-flights-answered/
Miller, P. (2019, September 30). Carbon Offsets 101. Natural Resources Defense Council. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.nrdc.org/experts/peter-miller/carbon-offsets-101