Carbon offset is a trendy term today. I remember back in the day (a year ago) when my friends and I planned to develop a web-app to help offset carbon emissions and the only competition in the market were two ageing websites. Today, the offset market is booming. People and businesses are becoming increasingly conscious about their impact on the environment.
Before we discuss about offsetting, let us get down to the basics. What is your carbon footprint? It is the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases that end up in the atmosphere due to your actions/inactions. It’s just like leaving footprints in a pristine desert or on a serene beach. Your footprints might be the blots of ink in nature but just like you have all the post-processing tools on Photoshop, there are offsetting websites.
Initially, you measure your carbon footprint. You look at the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the cars you drive, the buses you ride, the flights you fly and the amount of electricity and water you use. Essentially, you measure every aspect of your life and see how many tonnes of Carbon dioxide or equivalent gases you as an individual contribute towards our atmosphere. Next time someone begins to ostracise you about not contributing enough to the world, this is your trump card!
Now that you’ve measured how many tonnes of Carbon it took to get the breakfast cereal into your bowl every morning, there are a few ways one can respond to the shocking final figure:
- You try and reduce your consumption anywhere and everywhere possible. You buy less clothes, eat more organic food and may even turn into a vegan!
- You start walking or using public transport instead of getting the world smoked up. You choose trains over flights for shorter distances and kiss your favourite fast fashion stores (Check out fast fashion) goodbye.
- This is a bit more strenuous and can be a part of your monthly workout. You go out into your garden or find a barren land, trespass and start planting saplings that may one day grow into trees. Let that be your rebellion!
- Now this is for those who still feel guilty about their way of life. It is the holy grail for the capitalist eco-warriors, called Carbon offsetting.
Offsetting is the easiest way to get away with the guilt of harming the environment. You pay someone else to plant the trees or maintain the forests in a far off country where it is cheaper to do so! An average small business may produce anywhere from 100 to 400 tonnes of Carbon dioxide equivalent annually. If the world had a genuine system of carbon offsetting, developing countries would have had more incentives to grow forests than to down them.
But before you completely dismiss the idea of Carbon offsetting, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Nothing is ever perfect and humans always tend to take advantage of anything that’s out there. Carbon offsetting helps people to identify their carbon emissions and incentivises people in developing countries with precious rainforests to take care of them while making a living out of it. This is good news! But we need the big polluters- US, China, EU and the Middle East to do more in terms of limiting their harm to the environment. We also need countries with the precious rainforests- Brazil, India and Indonesia to bring stricter rules in the conservation of the current ecosystem. Offsetting is pointless when deforestation happens on the other end.
Here is my humble suggestion for the first step- If we take a flight, eat meat regularly, have a shopping spree or drive our own car, we should try our best to understand the emissions because of our habits and make amends through offsetting.