I just finished offsetting 20,000 miles of airplane carbon emissions. I also just started. Because the whole thing took about five minutes.
I decided to offset, to counter the emissions from mine and my wife, Chana’s recent visit to my family in New York. We chose to buy carbon credits from the Heschel Center’s Good Energy Initiative, and their “Children’s Power Project,” which circulates solar-powered medical equipment to children in need.
The process went like this:
I went to www.goodenergy.org.il, and clicked on “Offset with Us!” I then chose “Flights”, entered airport codes into the site’s carbon calculator, and was told that Chana and I had 12.03 tons of CO2 to offset. We then searched through a handful of potential offsetting projects, chose Children’s Power, went to “Check Out,” and paid. Our offset charge was 120 dollars.
There are hundreds, probably thousands of offsetting projects out there. But we wanted to offset with Good Energy because their projects are about providing simply Good Energy to Israel and that’s all. No far-fetching, fund-munching projects projected to be effective in the year 2020; rather, pragmatic ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aid in Israel’s energy independence and help Israeli communities suffering socio-economic difficulty.
And so that was it. Five minutes, 120 dollars, offset CO2 and a clear conscience.
Or not. We certainly have no regrets about flying to visit family once a year- but our conscience is far from clear. No matter how many good energy initiatives we join, our carbon emissions are”out there,” warming the earth, changing the climate.
To Chan and me, carbon offsetting is not about becoming “Carbon Neutral”- but being carbon honest. Or carbon accountable. Honest that even good actions have bad consequences, and accountable in trying to pay for them. In that sense, buying carbon credits is less of an “Offsetting,” and more of a tax that supports a less carbon reliant future.
My wish and blessing to us and other offsetters out there, is that we use carbon offsets not to absolve ourselves from responsibility for our carbon emissions, but as a measure to increase our carbon consciousness: reminding us to be more carbon efficient in daily life, encouraging us to keep track of how much we are actually emitting, and reassuring us that when important things like visiting family abroad come up- there is an easy, five-minute activity that will at the very least, do something to help.
For more on offsetting, check out Jewish Climate Initiative’s Free 2008-9 New Year’s Guide to Carbon Offsetting