This is the fifth article in a series.
Recently, I conducted a survey about attitudes and practices surrounding the purchase of carbon offsets as a tool for fighting climate change. After addressing the minor issues raised by respondents, I’m finally prepared to address the big ones. People just don’t know how to do it nor do they think they can afford it.
In one sentence, here’s how and how much: Visit CoolEffect.org, choose a project, pay about $8 per ton of carbon you want to offset, which should be about 1.3 tons per person in your household. Done.
It’s that easy. You can stop reading and start offsetting now.
For a bit more color and context, keep reading—then start offsetting.
Other places to buy carbon credits include GozAround Green and Terrapass.
While there are lots of carbon emission calculators online that will help you figure out how much you should offset, deciding how much to offset may be easier than that. Per capita carbon emissions appear to have peaked in at the start of the new millennium and have dropped about 20% since. Per capita emissions in the US is about 16 tons per year, or about 1.3 tons per month.
If you live in a big home with few people, drive a gas guzzler and eat beef three times per day, you probably generate more than the average. If you live in a small home or apartment, drive an electric car and eat a vegan diet, you probably generate less carbon than average. You can spend an hour with a calculator and may still end up with a less meaningful estimate of your personal carbon footprint that just using the average, adjusted up or down based on your lifestyle.
If you are a middle-income American, it is likely your per person emissions don’t exceed two tons per person per month nor fall below one ton per person per month. It is, after all, our spending that drives much of our carbon footprint.
For small business owners, there are carbon calculators available for you, too. Here’s one. The math above assumes that ultimately, all carbon emissions are the responsibility of the consumer of goods. It is unfair, however. Consumers have little influence over a business practices that can have a big impact on the planet.
Many large businesses have already established internal prices on carbon, allowing them to make economic decisions about when it makes sense to purchase an offset or change a process to reduce carbon directly.
Using the Cool Effect average price of about $8 per ton gives you a great place to start. If you can spend less than $8 to reduce a ton of carbon emissions—and often you can actually save money rather than spend money—you should do that. On the other hand, when carbon emission reductions will cost more than $8 per ton, it may make sense to buy carbon offsets instead—at least in the short run.
As a side note, there is a growing global consensus that a carbon tax of $75 per ton should be imposed. Using carbon offsets at $8 per ton will seem cheap compared to that. Beginning to understand your carbon footprint and working to reduce it is certainly a best practice with the threat of a carbon tax of that scale looming on the horizon.
Note that Cool Effect offers carbon offset projects with prices per ton as low as $3.30 meaning that a family of four can offset its carbon emissions for just $17.60 per month.
In the survey, 63.2% of respondents said they don’t know how to buy carbon offsets. Now you know.
Another 41.9% said they don’t know how to measure their carbon footprint. Now you know enough to make an educated guess about your carbon footprint using the back of an envelope or a napkin—or you can just punt and use 1.3 tons per person in your home. Business owners have a bit more work to do.
Another 34.2% said they can’t afford carbon offsets—before learning that carbon offsets can be purchased for as little as $3.30 per ton. Now you know that buying carbon offsets may well be within your budget.
There are no excuses left. Now you know how to buy carbon offsets, how much to buy and that you can afford buying carbon credits as easily as you can afford a fast food dinner for four.