Saturday, January 27, 2018

Erase your impact on climate change in 10 minutes

It’s tax season, when we all compute what we owe the government. Why not also compute your household debt to the climate? It’ll take about 10 minutes to wipe out your entire annual greenhouse gases, and I bet it will cost a lot less than you think.

Solar panels, changing your diet, buying an electric car, all those things are great. But they might take a little time. But you can buy carbon offsets to eliminate your carbon impact today. Calculate your carbon emissions from last year and donate toward a certified carbon offset project.

I just did it for my household and it cost my husband and me $68. For the year. We have solar panels and one electric/hybrid car so we have a fairly light footprint but do have a gas fireplace and stove. And the biggie, we flew to Europe. It might cost your household a couple hundred dollars, tax-deductible if you itemize charities. Isn’t it worth it? With Arizona getting hotter and drier, we owe it to future generations.

Step 1: Estimate your household greenhouse gases

The EPA carbon calculator for households will ask you the number of people in the household, how much you pay for electricity and gas, and how much you drive (remember to include rental cars): (Note that the website now says they’re updating the resources so the URL might change.) If you traveled by air during the year, it may be easier to use the calculator since it includes a tab to estimate air travel emissions: Whatever method you use, you should end up with metric tonnes. If the calculator produced pounds of greenhouse gases, divide by 2205 to get metric tonnes.
Screen capture from

Step 2: Choose and pay for a carbon offset project. 

A carbon offset is basically where you pay someone else to reduce their greenhouse gases by the amount you generated. Projects generally cost around $10 a metric ton. I like Cool Effect because you have a choice of projects and they are third-party certified, meaning you get what you think you’re buying:

Sample projects

You can find other certified offset brokers here: Make sure your carbon offset is certified and if you want to write off the expense, that the provider is a US-qualified charity. If you want to learn more about carbon offsets, the National Resources Defense Council has a nice explanation:

Step 3: Tell your friends and family. 

We need to make paying for our carbon emissions a social norm. Got your flu shot? Paid your taxes? Offset your carbon emissions?

We don’t have to wait for governments to act. We don’t have to wait for renewables to be phased in. You don’t have to buy an electric car today. We simply need to pay for the climate impacts our lifestyle is causing now. In the grand scheme of your household budget, it’s probably the equivalent of one latté each week. I’m willing to make this an annual charitable donation to the planet. Are you?

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