Carbon Offsets for Western Friend

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Update, 6/5/2019:

Many new initiatives to promote "carbon offsets" have emerged since the letter below was published.

One overview of such initiatives is found in the May 17, 2019, article by Anderw Wan, "Staying Green While Traveling."

https://millionmilesecrets.com/guides/staying-green-while-traveling-how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint

Letter of 10/1/2016:

Dear Friends:

At the start of our current fiscal year (October 1, 2016), Western Friend began making “carbon offset” contributions for the editor’s air travel. The cost of doing so is surprisingly low.

The bottom line is that Western Friend will contribute at the rate of $50/metric ton for the editor’s “carbon footprint” from air travel. Initially, that amount will be contributed on a quarterly basis (more or less) to the Carbon and Climate Program of the Conservation Fund. For example, for a round-trip flight between San Jose and Denver, Western Friend will contribute approximately $14.15 to the Conservation Fund as our “carbon offset.”

The background research is this: I started at the website of the National Resources Defense Council (http://www.nrdc.org/stories/should-you-buy-carbon-offsets). Here I learned that it’s important to buy carbon offsets from an organization whose work has third-party certification. I followed links from the NRDC site to two sites that list third-party-certified sellers of carbon offsets. There I learned that most sellers of carbon offsets either sell only to large entities like corporations or utility companies, or they are actually utility companies that only sell offsets to their own customers.

The two sites mentioned above, which list third-party-certified sellers of carbon offsets are:

http://www.climateactionreserve.org/how/crt-marketplace/

http://www.green-e.org/getcert_ghg_products.shtml

After studying these two websites, it seemed to me that the two most viable retail sellers of carbon offsets to individuals are:

http://www.conservationfund.org/carbon-and-climate/our-services

https://www.terrapass.com/

It is probable that more retail sellers of such offsets to individuals will emerge in the months and years ahead.

Next, I investigated the size and price of the carbon offset that would be appropriate for Western Friend to purchase for the editor’s air travel.

According to the following website, one plane generates an average of 53 lb of CO2 per mile or an average of 0.24 lb per passenger: http://blueskymodel.org/air-mile. This means that, if a round-trip flight from San Jose to Denver was 2600 miles, one passenger would generate 624 lb of CO2.

There are many carbon-footprint calculators to be found online. The following carbon footprint calculator got a roughly similar answer to the one above above; it determined that the passenger would generate 485 lb of CO2.

http://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=3

Terrapass charges $5.95 for 1,000 lb of carbon offset, which would be $13.12/metric ton. The Nature Conservancy sells carbon offsets for $15/metric ton, (However, the Nature Conservancy’s offset program is not third-party certified.)

At the rate of $15/metric ton, or $15/2205 lb . . . The offset for 624 lb of CO2 (round trip from San Jose to Denver) would be $4.24.

That price is so absurdly low that I proposed to the Western Friend board that we contribute at the rate of $50/metric ton, which would result in a contribution of  $14.15 as a carbon offset for a round trip between San Jose and Denver. This will, in part, make amends for much past air travel by Western Friend editors over the decades.

– Mary Klein, Western Friend