I’m not talking about being some mythological creature whom no one can track and whose picture is never in focus. I’m talking about having a large carbon footprint.
Recently Bur Oak Land Trust held its 33rd annual Prairie Preview. Amazing crowd, enthusiastic exhibitors, and a keynote speaker who captured audience attention with her compelling talk on climate change. Connie Mutel shared what she had learned while researching her book, A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Writing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland. My takeaway was that there were definitely changes we individually and collectively can – and should – make to mitigate and alleviate climate change. But what really struck me was the concept of offsets. What are offsets, you ask? They can be monetary contributions to efforts to reduce carbon emissions that offset the carbon emissions that a person is producing. So the first thing I wanted to do was check out what my carbon footprint was.
I know that there are a number of different websites that will calculate your carbon footprint, so I got on www.climatepath.org, which simply calculated emissions from automobile usage, home heating and cooling, and frequency/type of air travel. Luckily I drive a Mini Cooper and I don’t drive long distances to work, so my automobile usage calculation ended up being approximately 3 tons. For housing, I do live in a single-family home, but our square footage isn’t overly large. The big difference in my carbon footprint from housing is that I live in Iowa and not somewhere warm like California. Living in Iowa more than doubles the carbon footprint of housing compared to living in the same housing in a warm climate – because of heating and cooling costs. So instead of 4 tons if I lived in California, I have 10 tons for my Iowa home. For the final category, I had no carbon footprint this year because I only had one short hop on a plane. This brought my carbon footprint total to 13 tons. To put that into perspective, the worldwide carbon footprint average is 4 tons.
Back to the carbon offsets, because being so much higher than the worldwide carbon footprint is actually eye-opening for me. I can’t imagine the carbon footprint of someone who travels a lot by car and plane and has a big vehicle. Once I knew that I had a 13 ton carbon footprint, I wanted to know how much I would pay for offsets. Was it thousands of dollars? What was surprising to me is that it was very affordable. On the same climate path website I looked at a variety of offset options, from alternative energy to conservation to fair trade to innovation! And offsets were $10-20 per ton. For me – I could donate $130 to $260 to offset my carbon emissions and I find this doable. (Although this particular website’s calculation did not take into account meat consumption – and I love meat.)
Just imagine the change of carbon if each of us was inspired to offset our carbon emissions! And this change would be seen clearly by all.