Buying carbon offsets, or donating to alternative energy research has become a frequently suggested way to give “payback” for personal pollution. Say you want to fly to the east coast for a wedding–you can calculate what your carbon output is here then go here to decide where to purchase your favorite offset if you so choose. Obviously, there is a big market developing in this field.
I personally considered this as I struggled with the unavoidable fact of having to fly many family members to North Carolina for our daughter’s wedding. There was no way we were going to pass, but I was having difficulty reconciling this fact of life (in the year 2007) with my dedication to making and modeling a different conscious lifestyle.
It sounds a bit odd to me but I am sure that the concept of “offsets” relieves some guilt and may even be doing some good. A little bit like adopting an impoverished child from Africa–you get the pictures, the feel-good, it costs little comparatively speaking and requires minimal personal sacrifice. You are far enough away from it to have “deniability” about the overall effectiveness of your dollars.
My daughter, ever so rational, was the first to call me on this. Why spend the money there? For some of us, spending that extra bit of money is meaningful and a distant entity promising to do good in our name just doesn’t cut it. Can’t dedication to being “greener” develop closer to home? Think global, act local?
Let’s say you’ve determined through one system or another that you need to purchase the equivalent of $100 in carbon offsets…or whatever. What can that $100 (or its equivalent in your time and labor) do in your immediate environment?
- Do you have all the CFLs you need? Have you replaced every last incandescent in your home or apartment? Give one to a neighbor or family member.
- Arrange to set up a recyling bin at work or community center if there is not one yet.
- If your home is a candidate for solar panels open a solar savings account.
- Buy or save up for that new Energy Star appliance to bring down your overall carbon footprint.
- Replace your gas guzzling machines–start small with your lawnmower
- Plant a tree in your front yard.
- Plan a vegetable garden in your lawn.
- Find a new way to educate/inspire your kids, even your parents through some positive action–I hand out super-tough nylon shopping bags to family members.
- Construct a compost bin in your backyard and redirect about 15% of your home garbage.
I could go on of course. Once your thinking develops this way, the implications and applications are everywhere. It becomes personal…an investment in home, family and community.
Let the big guys fund the energy research. Suggestions welcome!