Monday, May 29th, 2017

Sustainability & ME: Carbon Offsets

Posted on April 22, 2017 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By: Ashleigh Tatarcyk, Contributor

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you’re probably familiar with the concepts of climate change and a “carbon footprint.” For those not in the know, a carbon footprint is the amount of CO2 given off through fossil fuel consumption by a particular individual, group of people or organization. In our fast-paced society, it may seem difficult to find ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint. We often think that lowering our carbon footprint means doing things such as installing solar panels, buying a high efficiency car and buying all local, organic food. Although these are all great ways to reduce your carbon footprint, for a college student they may not be practical or compatible with your wallet. So let’s talk about another practical solution for college students (or anyone, really) to help reduce the imprint they have on the earth: carbon offsets.

Carbon offsets may be a term you have heard thrown around, but don’t fully understand. The definition of a carbon offset, according to dictionary.com, is “a program in which a company, country, etc., reduces or offsets its carbon emissions through the funding of activities and projects that improve the environment. In more scientific terms this translates into a certificate representing the reduction of one metric ton (2,205 lbs) of carbon dioxide emissions. We all create carbon emissions in our everyday life. Driving your car or heating your house burns fossil fuels and puts carbon into the environment. Most of the goods and services we use, as well as the food we eat everyday, represent sectors such as manufacturing, construction, mining, and agriculture, which all produce carbon along the way.   

Buying a carbon offset allows you to help fund projects that are lowering carbon emissions, thereby lowering your own carbon footprint. There are hundreds of different carbon offset programs, each costing different prices to reduce your footprint. You can support a wind farm project in Vermont, contribute to a forest conservation effort in in Brazil or reduce tailpipe emissions from freight trucks that transport consumer goods all across the country. An excellent website to check out for more information is carbonfund.org. The site gives you a tool to help you calculate your own carbon footprint and shows you a variety of projects you can select from to pay towards a carbon offset project, as well as their pricing. To offset the emissions for a 1,000 square foot apartment costs $49.88. For a compact car it costs $36.28. This money then goes directly into the project of your choice. Its an option for us college students to be able to contribute as an active participant in the fight against climate change.  So if you can’t install solar panels on your house or buy all local food, don’t sweat it. Buy a carbon offset yourself or ask for one for a gift.

As a great man once told me, “You don’t want to be late to saving the world.”  
Ashleigh Tatarcyk is a senior majoring in Sustainable Tourism.  She enjoys traveling, hiking and biking with her dog Lumie.