Traveling over the past week, I visited the queen of sustainable cities, Portland, Oregon and a prime example of Midwestern disinvestment, Hutchinson, Kansas. Getting there, I spent time in the Houston, Atlanta, Memphis and Kansas City airports and, according to the newly revamped TerraPass air travel carbon emissions calculator, emitted a whopping total of 7,066 pounds of CO2.
I am not about to see all my bike riding, recycling, second-hand shopping, local food buying, energy star appliance using and non-air conditioned house living get canceled out by a few flights. So I’m thinking of spending $39.60 to purchase carbon offsets from TerraPass. The offsets fund three different project types: clean energy (wind power), farm energy (methane power) and landfill gas capture. Sounds good, right?
Like many of you, I’m skeptical of the whole concept of carbon offsets. Although TerraPass claims that, “All projects are verified by an independent accredited organization according to a published offset standard and all verifications include site visits, audits of the project data and project monitoring equipment and practices relative to the standard used,” purchasing offsets still just feels like eco-consumerism with very little real impact.
There’s a concept floating around that attempts to make carbon offsets more real and relevant –Engaged Offsets. The idea is instead of spending money to probably/maybe/sort of fund projects in far off places, spend money (and/or time) to fund projects that offset carbon emissions in one’s own community. Tree plantings are an obvious one, the Savannah Bike Co-op would be another good project to fund . . . Other ideas? I heard about a group while I was in Portland, that is trying to create funding mechanisms that link engaged offsets with green jobs -Now that would be something!