Tom Watson on
Jan. 13, 2007
Being neutral often means not taking a stand. But that's not the case when you become "carbon neutral."
For those not familiar with this concept (which included myself just a few months ago), here's how it works: To become carbon neutral for a certain activity, you estimate the rough amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) you produce from that activity - driving or taking an airplane flight, for instance - and then you make a payment to offset the amount of CO2 you produced. CO2 is the major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
A number of organizations and businesses now allow people to do this online. For example, on the website of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Travel International, you can calculate your emissions and then pay an amount that offsets those emissions with investments in alternative-energy projects in developing countries.
For a personal journal of a family's experiences going carbon neutral, plus lots of great background and links, visit the Carbon Neutral Journal, a blog written by Keith Peters of Jackson, Wyoming.
Some environmentalists and others have blasted this approach because they believe people might use their "carbon neutrality" to justify wastefulness or excessive use of resources ("Sure I have a Hummer, but I'm carbon neutral!").
But I believe that most people who make payments (sometimes called donations, if it's to a nonprofit) to become carbon neutral for a certain activity do it in addition to living an environmentally-conscientious lifestyle. So why not consider it this year? It's a concrete action we as individuals can take to reduce global warming.