“Americans produce an average of 21 tons of carbon a year, about four times the global average, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council” (Washington Post, 2018)
Calculating (and Offsetting?) your carbon.
One of the best things you can do is calculate your carbon emissions. It really rams home how much carbon one can generate with particular activities, at home, traveling, etc… Then you can learn to avoid that behavior. (And there are so many examples being put into this blog of what you can replace that behavior with!) Because with travel, the carbon emissions are generated, and then offset. Better to avoid the generation in the first place. See our Transportation/Travel page for ideas on decreasing carbon emissions. In addition, our buying offsets puts the onus on us, …” not the airline doing the polluting,” Geiling, 2014, Smithsonian Magazine:
However, as the LAST RESORT – you can calculate how much C02 you generate and then donate the equivalent cost of that C02 to a cause that helps save the planet – preferably a cause that prevents C02 output or that sequesters it. Here is a nice article by the Natural Resources Defense Council on what to consider when you buy carbon offsets: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/should-you-buy-carbon-offsets. Two key points include: 1) they should be third-party certified (all ones mentioned here are); and 2) the action should be permanent. The action should be in addition to something that would have been done anyway. (Geiling, N. 2014, Smithsonian Magazine).
Some carbon calculating (and offsetting) sites.
- Native Energy has not only travel calculators, but household and business calculators, as well as carbon-calculating software for businesses. The travel calculator lets you map multiple trips. However, their train calculation doesn’t seem to be working.
- In terms of offsetting, I could have sworn when I first started the group focused on Native American solar and other projects. Now it seems to be a Vermont-based company with some Native American staff that is mostly about global projects. My only choice for my carbon offsets for a round trip to Texas ($28 for 1.59 tons) went to an Ethiopian clean water project, which, by providing water filtration, prevents people from having to use wood to boil water.
- The Nature Conservancy’s calculator – is based on your general carbon lifestyle, and you can’t calculate a trip. Also, the offset form is divorced from carbon calculator. But TNC is a good group.
- MyClimate calculates flight distances for you, but for cars, you have to calculate the distance, and oh, convert from liters and kilometers. They do have a number of C02 prevention and sequestration projects to choose from for compensation.
- CarbonFund.org has a simple calculation tool, which pre-calculates the “carbon cost” and connects directly to an offset tool. However, it does not include small regional airports. Their train tool also doesn’t work (somehow I doubt it is only 2.2 miles between Washington, DC, and New Orleans, roundtrip.) Also, the car calculator is for annual mileage, not trips.
- Others I am still looking into:
- https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx (calls itself the most popular…)
- Delta and United are now providing a carbon calculator and offsets to customers.
- University of California, Berkeley’s Cool Climate calculator.
- https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator (based on energy units, not trips.)
So far, I think Native Energy is the best (has mapping tools) for those of us in the US, but we’ll see; it seems to be generating higher carbon numbers than the others, thus requiring more money for offsetting. It will be important to research their calculations.
Other useful articles.