Recently a cute co-worker mentioned carbon credits as something we should all invest in. Since I don’t want to admit to the hottie that I don’t have a clue, can you explain them to me?
Here’s the concept. Let’s say your next door neighbor starts grinding away on his electric guitar at three in the morning. He’s not only burning through your patience, but electricity, which usually comes from carbon dioxide-emitting power plants. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas making our global thermostat rise.
Your neighbor can now keep you awake with a clear conscience – he can shell out to deal with his guitar’s pollution. He pays to either 1) remove the CO2 from the air, or 2) prevent an equivalent amount from going into the air. That’s a carbon credit, or offset. His serenade may be contributing to your stress, but not global warming.
You can one-up him, though, by offsetting all the CO2 you make in a year. For under the cost of one grande cappuccino a week – about $100 a year – you can buy enough carbon credits to essentially add no CO2 to the world’s atmosphere. You’d be ‘carbon neutral.’
Not all offsets are made equal, however. There are over thirty online retailers, and some are iffy. My advice is to stick with these websites for now: www.nativeenergy.org, www.climatetrust.org and www.climatecare.org. They sell solid products that not only reduce CO2, but help people. Your money can enable African villagers to plant fruit trees. The village has fruit, and the trees soak up your CO2 as they grow. Or you can pay a struggling American farmer to plant his fields with windmills, which produce electricity with no CO2 emissions. Brilliant!
Go on… become carbon neutral and impress the pants off your colleague – especially if he’s cute!
I thought I was being responsible asking for paper bags at the supermarket check out counter. Recently a friend told me I should take plastic instead. I’m confused. Which is it, paper or plastic?
The most eco-friendly answer is, “Neither, thanks!”
I realize that sounds like a cop-out, but paper has not lived up to its promise of being better than plastic. It takes more energy and creates more pollution to make a paper bag than a plastic one. Both degrade at about the same speed in the dump, but paper bags take up about ten times more room.
However, your friend hasn’t won yet. Plastic bags are a menace. Literally billions choke our waterways and wildlife. Places in India and Australia have banned them altogether, and San Francisco doesn’t allow them in large shops.
My English mother’s solution is a wicker basket. You could use machine-washable cloth bags, available at most supermarkets. Some shops even give a discount for bringing your own bags. That’s not always convenient though. So, if you must choose between paper or plastic, my advice is to take the one you’re more likely to reuse. Keep a wad of plastic bags in your car for shopping, or bundle recycling in paper ones.
So, next time you go to the supermarket, take your wicker basket, your reused plastic or paper bag, a pillow case, take anything but empty hands. That way you can answer, “Got my own, thanks!”