Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Impact of Travel

I just got back from a much needed vacation. I relaxed on the beach listening to the sound of the waves and did absolutely nothing, but read, eat and sleep for three days. Perfection! I am lucky in the fact that I live a hop, skip, and a jump from the international border into Mexico. I got the feel of an exotic vacation, but didn't need to make a bunch of travel plans or get on a plane for my trip. I try to make the most of my area and find ways to plan little mini-vacations. It is good for the environment and well, also the pocketbook! But honestly, while having a staycation or planning something close to home is a great way to be good to the planet, at some point don't we all want to see some far off distant land?

Travel is good for the soul, but we impact the earth when we choose to take planes, trains, and automobiles to do so. Traveling uses a lot of carbon. So what can one do to go on a far off vacation and still be able to sleep at night? One thing is a carbon offset. Carbon offsets are provided by organizations who allow clients to invest in activities such as reforestation or clean energy development to offset the impact of their carbon use. There will be a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for an emission made elsewhere.

But good-hearted earth lover beware. Many companies out there may not be using your money wisely. Fortunately there are organizations that research and ensure credibility of specific projects so you know that your money is going to make a real impact. Make sure you do a little research first. Some credible companies include: Terrapass, Sterling Planet, and Carbonfund. These sites have carbon calculators that help determine how much energy you use in a typical year or for a specific event and then you can offset this use. The approximate cost is anywhere from $10-$20 per ton of carbon.

Obviously doing something like this is not an answer to our problems and it won't make them go away- but when I travel I feel like I am at least attempting to make up for the impact of my trip. True, offsetting carbon use is not as effective as limiting it in the first place...but realistically many of us will travel by plane sometime to somewhere. The real key is living your life differently over the long term and not just offsetting so you can feel ok about going to Jamaica. Driving a car, using electricity, and throwing away garbage all lead to green house gas emissions. Simple things like changing a light bulb, powering down electronics, using less water, and recycling all help. I suppose it is...living thoughtfully so you can live the way you want.

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