Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Carbon Offsetting

Just in case you're wondering where I've been and why my posts have slowed down... it's because this blog has well, been on the back burner recently while my hubby and I plan our 3 week Europe trip! To say we are excited is an understatement, try ecstatic! The picture below of Murren, Switzerland (picture by moonjazz)... yeah, we're going there!
I have a confession to make. Though I had good intentions of planning a GREEN international trip - it's not going very well. Does it help that a couple of the hotels/B&Bs I've booked (so far) charge a carbon offset tax? Maybe... not really. Let's look at the big picture:
  • Transatlantic flight (x2): ~10,000 miles or ~5,000 lbs of CO2
  • Rental car estimate ~1,600 miles or ~700 lbs of CO2
Never fear, carbon offsetting is here! You can now buy your way out of damage and guilt by purchasing carbon offset. In my internet research I found this article on Independent Traveler that explains how this works,
For better or worse, the concept of "carbon offsetting" has gained considerable currency in the media as one way to mitigate the environmental impact of many facets of modern living. The concept is fairly simple: for every mile you travel, or rather every ton of carbon dioxide your mode of travel causes to be released into the atmosphere, you pay a small fee to enable other folks to work on solutions to mitigate the damaging ecological effect of your travel.
This article also lists multiple websites that you can purchase carbon offset from, both profit and non-profit organizations (listed at the bottom of this post). Some sites will even send you a handy certificate declaring your eco-goodness (can you read the sarcasm?). I do think this is a good idea, and I will pay for our trip's carbon offset... but I don't like the idea of people being able to buy their way out and thinking it's OK, no harm done as along as they have money. It doesn't change the fact that nonrenewable resources are being used, and toxins are being spewed into the atmosphere. Though I feel bad for the negative impacts of us traveling, especially our transatlantic flight, it by no means overshadows my desire to travel. For me, and many, the benefits (however personal) far outweigh the cons. Below is a list of things I do in attempt to travel more green, that everyone can do... some of these I borrowed from Independent Traveler's list of Green Travel Tips.
  • Reuse sheets and towels at hotels instead of having them changed each day
  • Bring your own toiletries rather than using the minis provided in hotels
  • Stay at locally owned hotels
  • When leaving the room, turn off the lights, TV, and adjust the thermostat - the A/C doesn't need to be running full blast when no one is there.
  • If your hotel offers recycling - use it (if you don't know, ask).
  • Offset the carbon emissions produced from your flight (this is a new one for me)
  • Rent a car that meets your needs and gets good mileage, or even better rent a hybrid when possible!
  • Walk to see sights, or use public transportation
  • My favorite: "Take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints"
  • Another favorite - when snorkeling or SCUBA diving do not touch the coral or stir up sediment (avoid as much as possible), as this damages the reef's fragile ecosystem - I can go on and on about this one...
The commercial aviation industry is taking some initiative, check out their website. They explain the impact of air travel, as aviation is responsible for 2% of global carbon emissions. So, what are you doing to green your travel? Are fuel prices squashing your travel plans?

Here are some carbon offset websites:
GoZero (also on Travelocity)
Climate Care
Carbon Footprint

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