What is a carbon offset and how do I get one?

smoke stack
smoke stack

Earlier this week I wrote about a program which lets you give gift a clean carbon slate to your graduate by purchasing carbon offsets. After sharing this intriguing if not practical gift with some friends and relatives I found that not everyone knew what a carbon offset is. Rather than repeat myself numerous times I will share with all of you what carbon offsetting is.

One carbon offset is equal to one metric ton of carbon emissions or greenhouse gas. These offsets can be used by companies to get around carbon caps imposed on them by environmental regulations. Citizens like you and me however, can make use of carbon offsetting to live a "carbon neutral" life. These types of carbon offsetting programs allow individuals to purchase carbon offsetting from a range of companies in an effort to mitigate their impact on the environment. Before you can begin to lead a "carbon neutral" lifestyle you need to calculate your carbon footprint. You can use an online carbon footprint calculator or if you live in the EU you can even track your footprint on your cell phone.

I found that my estimated footprint is just under 18 tons of carbon emissions, which is below our national average. In order to offset my carbon footprint I, as an individual on the voluntary market, have a plethora of choices for carbon offsetting in a number of price ranges. These choices include donating $274 to a verified clean energy fund or planting 25 trees in the UK for $596. Other sources of carbon offsetting also exist at lower prices, ranging from $5.50 to $13 per ton, which make for a more reasonable payoff to offset my carbon usage.