Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Offset your carbon emissions with

In modern society, every action we take causes some carbon emissions into the atmosphere. When we turn on a lightbulb, it causes electricity to flow, and more often than not that electricity is derived from burning a fossil fuel, and when the fossil fuel is burned carbon is released to the atmosphere. Similarly while the refridgerator is whirring away in the corner, every kilowatt-hour it consumes means electricity, which means (usually) fossil fuels, etc. When you drive your car down the road, 99.9999% of you are burning fossil fuels to do so. When you fly an airplane, fossil fuels. The delivery of food to your grocery store, fossil fuels. The manufacturer of products you buy, fossil fuels at every step.

There are several programs allowing individuals to buy up carbon credits, and those credits come from other organizations who are investing in some kind of carbon abatement project. For example, planting a forest of trees causes absorption of carbon to create those trees. For example, investment in efficiencies causes a reduction of carbon emissions.

The idea is to bring market forces to the equation. It's market forces that caused the problem, as the search for cheap energy led the world to oil addiction and oil abuse. Perhaps market forces can cause the market to change behavior?

Carbon Counter ( is one such organization. is a collaborative project enabling The Climate Trust, a pioneering non-profit organization that invests in high-quality projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions, and Mercy Corps, an international relief and development agency, to address the threat millions face each year from the effects of global climate change.

Unfortunately the web site doesn't make it terribly clear how it works. They describe investing in projects, but what does that mean, what projects, etc? I wonder what the form of their investments are?

The process is twofold. First you go through a questionaire to determine an estimate of your carbon emissions. You can have either a rough estimate, or an exact one. The second step is to determine a contribution amount, and whether to make it a one-time contribution or monthly.

They couldn't have made it easier, but I wonder at the assumptions made. For example, while I live in a medium size single family house, our household probably uses less energy than their estimate. We use compact flourescent lightbulbs everywhere, we live in California and it doesn't get terribly cold, etc. Also, while I drive a small SUV, it's one with a very high gas mileage (for SUV's) and I attempt to minimize my driving of it, and I have an electric scooter I drive as often as possible. Neither of their questionaires gives me sufficient room to indicate what I already do to reduce energy usage.

Still, this is a very interesting idea and one to research further.