What are Carbon Offsets, and Do They Make Sense for You?

Part of sustainable living is trying to reduce your impact on the environment. Unfortunately, just living in the modern world can have a surprising impact on the environment. Find a carbon footprint calculator online, honestly enter your information, and you might be surprised at the size of your impact on the environment.

Once you know that your lifestyle is impacting the environment, you might decide to begin living differently. For many consumers, this means reducing the number of things that they buy, trying to avoid products with a lot of packaging, using less energy, and looking for more sustainable ways to travel.

Even if you reduce your impact as much as you can, though, you might still be surprised at your impact. It’s at this point that a consumer might attempt to assuage his or her conscience with the help of carbon offsets.

What are Carbon Offsets?

Essentially, there are activities that can help remove the harmful carbon monoxide and dioxide from the air. Plants, which use some of our carbon-y waste as part of their nourishment, can help. There are other methods used as well. Not all of us can employ these methods, however. Sure, you can help by planting a tree or growing a garden. But that isn’t practical for everyone.

Carbon offsets are supposed to help you combat your contribution to the problem. When you buy carbon offsets, it’s supposed to represent a shift to some activity that reduces the carbon in the environment. You pay, and someone else balances your impact on the environment. Some consumers like to purchase offsets when they fly, or drive long distances. Others purchase them in an effort to get their footprints down to zero.

Do Carbon Offsets Work?

There is some debate about the effectiveness of carbon offsets. Exchanges and other marketplaces aren’t particularly widespread, and because there aren’t a lot of laws forcing individuals to pay attention to how much carbon they produce (and there aren’t requirements to offset it), there is some doubt as to whether or not they are effective.

And, of course, you have to trust that your purchase really will do some good.

On the other hand, consumers who trust the system can experience some peace of mind. If you buy consumer electronics, or if you have to commute a long way to work, or if you fly a lot, you might feel bad about the way your lifestyle is impacting the environment. If you feel that carbon offsets are a truly good idea, and if you think that they will help, it can make sense to purchase a little peace of mind.

There are those who contend that instead of purchasing carbon offsets, you should make even greater efforts to have a smaller impact on the environment. To some, it seems as though carbon offsets represent a wish to appear environmentally-conscious without making any true changes to lifestyle. Even so, some effort is better than no effort.

What do you think? Are carbon offsets effective? Do you use them?

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