Ways to Leave a Smaller Footprint

Have you been at a party lately where some one asked, “What is your “carbon footprint?” Or have you been asked, “What is your “offsetting” gap?” It is coming. What is your answer? It is time to figure that out.

Climate change and global warming are constantly in the news. Environmental disaster is apparently looming. Governments are taking action. But, what can individuals do to make a difference? And what can companies do through the collective actions of their employees?

A person’s “carbon footprint” is the total carbon dioxide emissions they create when they drive, go on a flight or use electricity.” An oft-cited statistic is that each individual in Canada and the US emits around 5 tons of carbon dioxide each year into the atmosphere from their day-to-day activities.

A straight-forward way to reduce your carbon footprint is through conservation – drive less, turn down the thermostat, buy locally produced goods. But these actions alone may not reduce all 5 tons of emissions.

This gap has resulting in the concept of “offsetting” the emissions that a person can’t reduce. An offsetting program reduces the emissions that a person cannot reduce by funding clean energy and efficiency projects such as wind farms. Here are four organizations that will assist individuals and companies in the offsetting process.

One company is San Francisco-based TerraPass launched in 2004, originally as a way to help people reduce the impact of their driving. They have 150,000 clients which have reduced over 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

A second option is Vancouver-based Offsetters. Their projects have the following characteristics: verifiers confirm that their projects take place as promised; they are “additional” projects that lead to real reductions in total greenhouse gas emissions by enabling projects that would otherwise not take place; they are “permanent” solutions (i.e. they avoid reforestation and other projects that only temporarily store carbon); and they bring social and local environmental benefits as well as climate gains.

With Offsetters, an individual can offset 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide for $40, 5 tonnes for $100, and 10 tonnes for $200. The company invests in projects that are verified by qualified third parties.

A third firm is Carbon Planet, based in Australia & UK and established in 2000. Carbon Planet works with businesses around the world to help them quantify the risks and explore the opportunities emerging in the carbon constrained economy. Carbon Planet stresses that its audit and advisory team has the qualifications, accreditations and applied science skills required to accurately calculate a carbon footprint.

The fourth alternative is Carbonfund.org which achieves its goals through climate change education, carbon offsets and reductions and public outreach. Their motto is “Reduce what you can. Offset What you can’t”. They help a company reduce the carbon footprint of its products and then recognize the company through their CarbonFree® Certified Label.

This label was created in response to the growing market for eco-friendly products and consumer demand for transparent, credible and readily accessible information at the point of purchase. The label distinguishes a company’s product(s) and expresses a company’s commitment to the environment and to fight global warming.

In short, companies and consumers have options as to how they can make a difference. With some basic research they can review the above options to see which organization offers the best fit. Besides their own personal actions, they can support companies that are adopting actions to reduce their carbon footprint.