To Offset Or Not To Offset? That Is The Question!
A famous frog once lamented “it isn’t easy being green“. Well, these days there are more options available to responsible consumers and businesses looking for ways to reduce their ecological footprints. There are small steps we can take, and GIANT LEAPS, into the jungle of green products and services on the market these days, but sometimes these can be leaps of faith. Unfortunately, everyone seems to jumping on the “green” bandwagon, and it can be hard to tell who is providing more sustainable options and who is offering no more than the same old “dirty” products painted a nice shade of green. (I will surely be bringing up “greenwashing” again, but for now I want to stick to the issue of offsets.)
We all want to do the right thing, but we also want it to be easy. One thing that is gaining in popularity is “carbon offsetting”. When we offset our carbon footprint, we invest in carbon-reducing projects to balance out the negative impact our own activities have (with a focus on climate impact of course). These offsets can include investment in forest conservation or reforestation, renewable energy and/or the nullification of tradable carbon quotas.
So, is this truly a green option, or just another ecological wolf in a big ol’ green wool suit (now I mean “green” as in painted – using child labor, of course – with highly toxic, petroleum-based, non-biodegradable, VOC-laden paint in the loveliest color of fresh Spring foliage). Well, I guess it depends on how you offset and why you do it.
“Why” first: If you offset your carbon footprint to avoid having to make any changes in your behavior, I don’t think you’re going to get too many eco-points. This may save time and work, but it is NOT going to save the planet or anything living on it. We are simply not going to change things in an effective and FAIR way by doing using offsets this way. We need to take real, practical steps in our own lives, in our homes, in our businesses, with our friends, families, and co-workers, to reduce the impact of our actions. This brings us to the “how”.
“How?”: There are so many real and effective (and easy) (and cheap) changes we can make to reduce our carbon footprint or our overall ecological footprint for that matter (I think we need to remember that “carbon” isn’t the only issue). Then there are the connected social and ethical issues (back to those unfortunate kids forced to paint those wolves green). So we take real steps, smaller and larger, in our lives. No matter what we do, no matter how dark forest green we really are, there will always be things we can’t avoid, things we forgot. There will always be these “externalities” that will have a negative effect on our surroundings. This is where I think we can use offsets in a functional, effective, and truly “GREEN” way. If we choose to do this, we just need to make sure we choose high quality, third-party verified, “additional” offsets from a dependable provider.
More on this another time. Now I need to go to sleep. I’ll soon be counting green sheep (now I mean those freely roaming, lovingly cared for, chemical-free, organic sheep that live long happy lives…).