*insert fart joke here*

So. Offsetting your carbon emissions. That’s a good thing, right? I mean, it’s best that you have as little a carbon footprint as possible, obviously, but there are times when a large amount of carbon has to be produced, for example, oh, I dunno, a month’s trip to Australia maybe. And it’s with this trip I thought I’d do a bit of good and pay back my massive footprint (I’m actually a size six. Boom! Boom!) because, you know, staying nearer to home and walking round these fair isles as an alternative and greener break is completely out of the question. I didn’t get two weeks unpaid leave for nothing you know (although, thinking about it, it’s not a bad idea for a break at all…)

I thought that offsetting your carbon emissions would be a simple job. Go to a website, input in where you’re going and it’ll tell you how much carbon you’re using and then charge you a suitable amount of money to go and plant some trees. Easy.

But it isn’t. First of all is this report from the Sunday Timeslast March. It says that trees will take up to 100 years for your carbon emission to be taken back. Not to mention that some of these planting are used for timber and it’s not known what habitats* are being used for this planting. Secondly, it’s interesting to note that in my literally minutes of research, each different company I looked at seemed to have a slightly different idea on how much carbon I was using. All were given the details of a return flight from Heathrow to Perth. Climatecare.org told me that I’ll be travelling 18011 miles with an emission of 4.59 tonnes (cost £34.40), the Carbon Neutral company say I’m travelling 18027 miles, but I’ll only be emitting 3.2 tonnes (£24.00). CO2balance.com says 6.8 tonnes at a cost of £61 (!) and for Cleanerclimate.com say 5.44 tonnes for £44.07.

These companies are clearly here to make a profit, they’re companies not charities after all, and it’s a big problem for me. How much of my money would actually be used to offset my emissions? There are other projects other than planting trees, like constructing wind turbines in India, or installing energy efficient lightbulbs in the Marshall Islands, but even these projects are dogged with stories of human rights abuses.

So what do I do? I think I may just leave it. My little skeptics bell is ringing too loudly in my head. If the calculations in the various websites for my journey are inconsistent, how am I to know how much carbon I’ve used? It’s all well and good trying to clear a conscience, but I can’t help thinking that my money would be better spent with some charities such as this. Or this. 

*it’s important to remember in these projects that other habitats like marshlands are just as important for wildlife and the environment as forests. No, they don’t hold as much carbon as trees, but caring for the environment also means looking after the local biodiversity, not just the green house effect, something I fear gets a little forgotten along the way sometimes. 

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2 Responses

  1. Anything but simple! As you say all very confusing once you start looking into it. I’d say leave it and make up for it in other ways.
    You make a relevant point in your footnote, being one that is all too often overlooked. Well done on pointing it out.
    Have a good weekend.

  2. I too am very sceptical about offsetting schemes. I think the best approach is to fly less (I’m not having a go at you for flying, I don’t know how much you fly in a typical year, it’s up to you to decide what is reasonable and what’s not) and to make other changes so your lifestyle becomes more sustainable. I think offsetting schemes are basically just for people who feel slightly guilty about flying but not guilty enough to fly less, so they pay someone to take their guilt away. I don’t think it actually makes any difference to carbon overall, for all the reasons you have already pointed out.

    Giving to a carefully selected charity is a great idea, especially if you can set up a regular direct debit. Even if the amount is small, this is much more valuable to a charity than a one-off generous donation, because it allows them to plan long-term projects when they know what their income will be.

    Enjoy your trip, and tell us all about it when you get back.

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