Questions you should be asking yourself about carbon offsets

unclesam.jpgFollowing up on last week’s questions you should be asking your carbon offset provider, this week I’ll quote from the recent carbon offset study’s questions for purchasers of carbon offsets. I.e., you.

  • What steps have you taken to reduce your own emissions? If the opportunity to go carbon neutral by spending a few dollars online becomes an excuse to not think about what else you can do at home or elsewhere, or lets you feel that it is acceptable to emit more emissions than you might otherwise, then buying offsets may have a negative result.
  • In choosing a retail offsets provider, have you paid attention to the quality of the offsets you are purchasing, so that you can credibly claim that you are carbon neutral?
  • Is going carbon neutral the beginning of your global warming mitigation journey, or the end? The opportunity to go carbon neutral at an individual level should not become an excuse to avoid thinking about the larger problem of global warming policy. Addressing global warming will require much more than individuals and businesses going carbon neutral.
  • What are you doing to leverage your efforts to go carbon neutral? Rewarding with your dollars companies offering carbon neutral products and services? Using your carbon neutrality as a platform to push for global warming policy by your elected representatives? Without public policy, individuals’ carbon neutrality cannot solve the problem. Indeed, a key contribution of the retail offsets market may be to promote public understanding and ultimately public policy.

A little didactic, perhaps, but I can’t fault the sentiment.

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  1. jill - December 13, 2006

    Concerning Tom’s answer to my comment of December 6, could someone explain to me the difference between money going to REC’s and the total offset amount that Terra Pass gives. Also, how much of every dollar sent to Terra Pass goes back into the company as profit? Thanks also for the discussion on public policy. Nothing will really change without the entire system buying into the idea that we should be approaching carbon neutral, not as individuals, or groups, or even countries, but as a globe. The US can do a lot by leading in that direction to recapture the imagination of the rest of the world about this country, and the Great Experiment in Democracy.

  2. Tom Arnold - December 14, 2006

    Hi Jill:
    TerraPass is independently audited to make sure that we have done what we have said we would do. You can read our verification report here:

  3. Daphne - December 18, 2006

    I am happy to balance the CO2 that my 30 MPG car uses in addition to all the other things I do: bike often to work and errands, enjoy a vegetarian diet, switched all light bulbs, raise much of my own food, buy used clothing and more. People who only remove CO2 for guilt, need more education. Our work is cut out for us.