Thursday, 5 May 2011

Carbon offsetting?

This week's blog is a tad late - as I mentioned last week I was moving to London, and arrived bright and early on Tuesday morning. I'm pleased to report that I've now recovered from the 30 hour journey! My mission for last week was to purchase some carbon offsets for my long-haul flight to get here. It sounded like a simple challenge, but once I started researching I found it was far more complicated and confusing than I'd anticipated. I found myself asking a number of questions and here's what I discovered...

Carbon offsetting is basically purchasing a reduction of greenhouse gases in another location to offset your own emmisions. Projects might include: renewable energy, energy efficiency or reforestation. The more I read though the more I found questions about how effective carbon offsets are.

Apparently in the UK less than 30 pence in every pound (30%) spent on some carbon offset schemes goes to projects designed to reduce emissions. The rest goes to the company that takes on the risk of the project, the project's investors, and organisations involved in brokering and auditing the carbon credits. A lot of offsetting also seemed to just be trading paper money through different trading schemes, rather than investing in new tangible projects. In fact I found a number of examples where offset projects might actually be damaging the environment. For some interesting reading check out these articles in The Guardian or BusinessWeek.

All this left me feeling a little under-enthused. What's the point in giving money away to a trading sheme that isn't guaranteed to make a difference, just to make me feel better about indulging in some un-eco friendly travel?

So I've decided instead to put my offsetting money aside and donate it to WWF who I know work on some fantastic climate change projects, and aren't a for-profit company. I'll try not to consider last week's mission a total failure - I guess the lesson for me is that you can't buy being green, you have to earn it yourself!

My next week's mission is inspired by an article I read yesterday in a newspaper I just happened to pick up on the tube. Here are the stats that I read: In the UK households waste 25% of all the food they buy. 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in rich nations come from production of food that is never eaten. Pretty shocking.

So my mission for the week is to waste no food. This could be interesting as I'll be holidaying and therefore eating out most of the week, but after reading those statistics I'm very motivated!


  1. If you figure out how not to waste food, let me know! As I type, there are at least two things in the fridge that need to get tossed out before I leave tomorrow. I'm especially bad about mediocre leftovers -- they sit around in my fridge until they go bad, even though I know I should eat them.

  2. I'm much the same, I always forget to eat my left overs, or leave my fruit and veg too long until it's not really edible. The big test for me next week will be eating out, as I never finish restaurant size portions... I'll need to figure out some strategies to work around that!