Monday, September 29, 2008

Easy Eco Mondays - Carbon Footprint

Carbon neutral – I am sure we have all heard of it. But what does it really mean? From doing a bit of reading, I put it into this analogy…. If the earth was my body and carbon was calories, it would be striving to maintain your current weight. In other words, when I that extra scoop of ice cream (my weakness), I have to make sure to fit in a workout that day. It is the same thing with the planet, when we produce emissions into the atmosphere (ice cream), we should then “exercise” back to carbon neutral. But what is exercise for the earth? Well it can be planning a tree, or composting – but many of times that doesn’t go far enough – so we buy carbon credits (or offsets).

The Carbon Neutral concept hit close to home when I started my new work project – I fly to and from site every two weeks. It was on my first flight to site that I decided to look into Carbon Credits. The best resource I have found is from David Suzuki’s website. He breaks it down quite nicely:

“Here's how it works: if you add polluting emissions to the atmosphere, you can effectively subtract them by purchasing 'carbon offsets'. Carbon offsets are simply credits for emission reductions achieved by projects such as wind farms, solar installations, or energy efficiency retrofits. You can purchase these credits and apply them to your own emissions to reduce your net climate impact.” - David Suzuki Foundation

Net climate impact…humm… I have never really thought about my net climate impact… adding up all of my carbon emissions, not just for one day, but say for a whole year! I’m not sure I am ready to face that figure (just like I can’t go bathing suit shopping after Christmas!) But let’s break down my net climate impact for these extra plane rides. David Suzuki’s website has some great resources including this one, which calculates your emissions from driving, flying or you home and offers a dollar amount of Carbon Offsets you need to buy (And it’s a Canadian website!!)

My emissions for a round trip flight to Yellowknife (closest Airport to site) from Vancouver (with a stop in Edmonton) are 0.88 tonnes. To off set these emissions could cost me as little as $11.55. That would be the cost of packing my lunch for the trip instead of buying it at the airport! (Although, if you do offset high altitude impacts and only buy a Gold Standard offset then you can be paying up to $34.54, still not completely unreasonable – especially since Westjet and Air Canada have just removed the fuel surcharge)

The only one issue comes when you actually have to buy these Carbon Offsets. You can’t go to the government and go here is my money now offset my carbon! It is a little more complicated… and worthy of it’s own post.

So until the next Eco Monday…. Have fun calculating your carbon emissions!

Anyone have some numbers to share?

California Environment Protection Agency

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