More people are becoming aware of their personal impact on the environment and the need to reduce CO2 emissions, and now there is a very direct way for individuals to alleviate the effects of “greenhouse gases.”
Your so-called carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels.
Some of it is direct, such as exhaust fumes from driving your car. But most is indirect, such as the pollution caused by a power plant that generates your electricity.
The major components of a carbon footprint are automobile travel, air travel, home utilities, food consumption and waste made or recycled.
For businesses, other factors come into play, too, such as manufacturing processes, methods of shipping, paper usage and so on.
Reducing one’s carbon footprint typically entails cutting down on travel, switching modes of transportation, installing energy-efficient appliances and the like.
However, there are limits to how much can be cut out. What’s more, a single round-trip plane flight of 1,000 miles for vacation or business adds 440 pounds of CO2 to one’s footprint, which no amount of austerity can make up for.
That’s why there is a growing market for “carbon offsets”—the reduction of emissions somewhere else to balance out the emissions an individual cannot reduce.
Examples of the forms this can take include renewable energy projects and reforestation. The developers of such projects sell “certificates” representing so many metric tons (2,205 lbs) of CO2 emissions removed from the environment. The money raised goes right back toward further reductions.
One of the leading proponents of carbon offsets is TerraPass, the brainchild of Dr. Karl Ulrich at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004. Its emphasis is on offsetting air travel pollutants, allowing passengers to fly carbon neutral by purchasing offsets along with their tickets.
Assisted by 41 of his students, Ulrich enrolled 2,400 TerraPass members within one year of start-up, reducing CO2 emissions by 36 million pounds.
It is almost impossible to reduce a carbon footprint to zero without using carbon offsets. The good news is that they are now readily available and relatively inexpensive, while providing a direct method of taking action to fight climate change caused by greenhouse gases.
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