Friday, March 09, 2007

Going Carbon Neutral

I've been thinking about reducing the energy I use for a long time in order to reduce my contribution to global warming. Reading GreenLAGirl, an excellent environmental blog, I read about DriveNeutral, a non-profit that sells carbon offsets. Today I went to the DriveNeutral website, and learned I can pay money to DriveNeutral, and they buy on my behalf emmission credit reductions at the Chicago Climate Trust. The Chicago Climate Trust is like a stock exchange where companies or individuals can buy credits to offset the carbon they produce. The Chicago Climate Trust has 3rd party verification that it actually uses to money to buy environmental-sound projects such as forest projects or urban reforestation such as planting trees in the countryside or the cities or building renewable energy sources such as wind farms, solar energy or geothermal.

DriveNeutral had a calculator where I could calculate how much carbon dioxide my driving produces each year. Last year I took the subway twice a week to work, reducing my driving. I own a Mazda Protege which gets 27 miles/gallon. I drive approximately 6700 miles/year (the average American drives 12000 miles/years). At DriveNeutral the calculator said that the 6700 miles I drive at 27 miles/gallon produces 4265 lbs. of carbon dioxide. To offset that I had to pay $28 to offset the carbon, so I did. They will send me my certificate in the mail.

I have an an-electric apartment. Over a year ago I signed up for the Green Energy Program of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. It cost me about $3.50 extra each month, but all the energy for my house comes from green energy sources such as solar, wind, or geothermal, so my house heating my house or using my stove doesn't produce any carbon dioxide. To be truthful, I do have a gas heater but don't know how much carbon dioxide that produces over a year. For the last year I've tried to get my fruits and vegetables at the local farmer's market, but still I buy about 1/2 of my food at the supermarket, so there is trucking involved--I don't know how to calculate that amount of carbon dioxide. So even with heating and stove powered by green powering, I still am producing some amount of carbon from my food and water heater but I don't know how much.

I also flew to China where I had a vacation in 2006. At TerraPass, another non-profit where individuals can buy carbon credits, I calculate that I flew 14,938 miles which produced 6,142 lbs of carbon dioxide.If I buy a $36.95 carbon credit from TerraPass (DriveNeutral does only carbon credits for driving), then I would offset the carbon produced by my flying. Once I buy the $36.95 carbon credit, then I will be near neutral in my production of carbon dioxide.

I must say that going to a website, calculating how many pounds of carbon dioxide I'm producing, then look at the amount of money it would take to offset has taught me a lot: it has made the abstract concrete. At first I couldn't believe 1 round trip to China would produce over 3 tons of carbon dioxide. Now I'm beginning to understand.

If I add up all my carbon produced this year:
4,265 lbs carbon dioxide- driving
14,938 lbs carbon dioxide- flying
?500 lbs carbon dioxide- my estimate for gas to heat water heater & trucking my food
19,702 lbs carbon dioxide- 9.5 tons carbon dioxide produced by me in 2006!

By the way, Executive Director Carlson of Carbonfund says the average American produces 55,000 lbs or 27.5 tons of carbon dioxide/year. There are a number of non-profits--TerraPass, DriveNeutral, Carbonfund--who sell carbon offsets ranging from $8-$11/ton for Terrapass, $10/ton for DriveNeutral, and $5.50/ton for Carbonfund.

If I pay $10/ton for my 9.5 tons, I need to spend $95 to offset all the carbon I produce in 2006. Wikepdia says that $90 can buy 900 trees, and trees are great for getting carbon dioxide out of the air. What I like about this whole process I have to think concretely about the carbon I produce and what my responsibilites for that are? So far I've spent $28, and I'm thinking if I should spend $67 more to go carbon neutral

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