five non blondes

Carbon offsets

I’m addicted to travel.  I have a serious case of wanderlust.  I want to visit every part of the earth… several times over.  In fact, I leave for my next big adventure this Friday.  I’m headed to New Zealand this time and I can’t wait.  The problem with all this travel though, whether by car or planes in particular, is the huge amounts of carbon emissions that I’m facilitating. 

So, it got me thinking about carbon offsets.  How do they work?  Are they worthwhile or is it just a way to make yourself feel a little better without changing any bad behavior? How do you know your money’s really going where it should?

So, I did some investigating.  First off, there are both nonprofit & for profit companies providing the service.  The typical service being planting trees, renewable energy, or both.  A few of the top sites that I found are:

1. Motto: “Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t”.  It’s nonprofit and costs about $5.50/metric ton (about 2,205 lbs) of carbon.  The cheapest out there from what I’ve found.  They’ve got a carbon calculator to help you figure out what your footprint is and how much you’d like to offset.  They give you the choice of putting the money towards renewable energy, energy efficiency, & reforestation.  They also identify the specific projects they have in each of these areas with details about locations and what they’re doing with the money.  They also have a handy comparison chart between all the major companies and it gives the stats on each one for quick research.

2. Terrapass: The only one that I’d heard of previously, for profit, $10.91/ton.  It has specific calculators for cars, planes, weddings, and homes which simplifies things if you want to offset a few activities as opposed to your entire life.  They also list the details of the projects they’re supporting, but I don’t think you get the choice on which one specifically. 

3. Native Energy: for profit, $13.20/ton.  You can choose between supporting wind farms, farm methane generators (remooable energy according to them), or a combo of both.  They set up these farms in communities in need like native americans, Alaskan native villages, and rural communities.  They’ve partnered with a lot of big name companies & people like Aveda, Dave Matthews band, Interface carpet, Timberland, Ben & Jerry’s, etc.  In fact, you get a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s when you set up an account.  

4. Live Neutral: nonprofit, $7.50/ton, not specific about the projects they work on.  Based more on education and community involvement. 

I’m pretty sure all offsets are tax deductible.  I think most allow you to do a one time purchase or set up a monthly withdrawl.  If you’re worried about what people are doing with your money, make sure that the company is certified by a 3rd party auditor.   These organizations make sure the company is following a set of independant standards.  They make site visits to the projects & use monitoring equipment to make sure the amount of carbon they say they’re removing is really being offset. 

As a reference point, I put in my trip from SF to Auckland, New Zealand and it calculated 5.229 tons of CO2 being used to go 13,072.56 miles round trip.  Through Native Energy (since I like the idea of getting Ben & Jerry’s 🙂 ), it will cost me about $72.  What do you think?  Should I do it?

-Rebecca, SF


4 Comments so far
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Christina and I offset our monthly PGE bill and I think it’s a good thing. I believe that, at this moment, it’s only half the battle to find better ways to produce energy though. The other half is finding better ways to reduce energy consumption, which the offsets don’t really address.

Comment by Michael

Michael, what company do you use for your offsets?

Comment by 5nonblondes

PGE has their own offset program called “ClimateSmart”

Comment by Michael

Get free carbon offsets here:

Comment by Karbon Kenny

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