Carbon Offsets Not Just an Indulgence

Even though I self-identify as a progressive and/or liberal — and definitely am on specific hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and abortion — overall I’m probably much more of a moderate, and when it comes to environmental issues, while I enjoyed Happy Feet and every one of Carl Hiaasen’s novels, my opinion on them has generally mirrored my concerns about cancer when I was a regular smoker: I basically ignored it.

Not because I don’t care, of course, but because there was seemingly nothing I could do about it. While you can usually quit smoking with some effort and self-discipline — and I eventually did — unless you’re wealthy, it just isn’t easy living green, especially when it comes to cars.

I’d love to be able to bike to work, but it’s simply too far, so I take public transportation, which is fine. Salomé would have to leave home around 6am, though, in order to get to work on time, which isn’t fine, so she drives the 6 miles each way, every day. On the weekends, we run our errands, maybe take a trip over to Nyack, or out to Jersey or (less and less these days) up to New England.  Throw in a trip or two down to my mother’s in Virginia and we’re still barely hitting 10,000 miles/year, putting our estimated carbon footprint at 6,984 lbs carbon dioxide last year, according to TerraPass, well below the national average of 19,564 lbs (based on EPA estimated national average of 231 miles/week per vehicle).

When we bought our new [to us] car last month, we’d have loved to buy a hybrid, but they’re simply out of our price range. The car we did buy, a 2006 Mazda 3, gets slightly better gas mileage than our old 1998 Plymouth Breeze, making for a slight improvement in our carbon footprint, bringing it down a bit to a very respectable 6,515 lbs carbon dioxide/year. Nevertheless, the idea of carbon offsets — “the act of mitigating (“offsetting”) greenhouse gas emissions… [by] paying for emission reductions to take place elsewhere instead of reducing one’s own emissions” (Wikipedia) — is an appealing one, not as an indulgence (though I have no problem with city-dwelling SUV owners soothing their gas-guzzling guilt by doing so) but simply as one more way I can do my best to “be the change [I] want to see in the world.”

I discovered TerraPass via an ad on Daily Kos this evening, and after some research found that they are one of the more reputable companies offering carbon offsets so I purchased their Cross Towner TerraPass for our car, “fund[ing] the reduction of 8,000 lbs of carbon emissions through clean energy and carbon reduction projects.”

In that same spirit, I’m heading down to Union Square tomorrow (or later this morning) for an ObamaNYC Visibility event to pass out information and recruit volunteers for the campaign, and afterwards attending a meeting to lay out plans for what comes next between now and the February 5th primary. Social networking having come a long way since 2004, I’m pretty confident that I’m not walking into a repeat of my Kucinich experiences where a bunch of jaded hippies were more interested in complaining than actually getting organized.

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