If you’re fairly familiar with sustainability then you may have heard the term “carbon offsetting” before. It was a confusing concept for me when I first heard of it, so what better way to delve a little deeper and hopefully help other people who might be in my situation too?
I haven’t updated the ‘made easy’ series in a little while, so I thought now was a better time than any to get stuck in!
Whenever you do something like take a plane ride or a lengthy car journey, it produces CO2 which is released into the atmosphere. Or it can be something as simple as breathing! We inhale O2 (Oxygen) and exhale CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) every single second of the day. Along with other gasses, CO2 acts as an insulator which in turn gradually causes the warming of the earth. To understand more about global warming click here to read the BBC’s article about climate change and what it means for us.
While the warming of the earth’s surface doesn’t seem all that bad at face value – especially for us here in the UK, it could actually be catastrophic for the planet and all the life on it. For example, higher chances of extreme weather such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves (which we’ve seen plenty of recently).
Not to mention the potential extinction of plant and wildlife. Some species could be wiped out altogether, which could have drastic knock on effects. Did you know that without bees, we could lose valuable food sources? Pumpkins, tomatoes, and almonds are three of many foods that are dependent on bees for pollination. For further info click here to check out the full NRDC’s (Natural Resources Defence Council) article.
Scientists have stated that in order to reduce the rapid warming, changes across society need to be immediately put in place so that temperature rises don’t exceed 1.5°c by the end of the century. The “safe” limit was once said to be 2°c by the end of the century, but has recently been argued that 1.5°c would be our best bet.
There’s been a lot of buzz recently about carbon neutrality. Particularly from businesses wanting to project a more sustainable image to their target market. I’m not saying that all companies are using it as a greenwashing tool, but some certainly are.
The idea is that you ‘offset’ any carbon emissions you’ve produced through whatever activity – flying, driving, shipping products across the globe. This is typically done through investing in environmental projects around the world. While it doesn’t necessarily ‘undo’ the damage that’s been caused, it theoretically cancels itself out.
While it’s a great idea in theory, it doesn’t really live up to its grand promise. Several airlines now offer for passengers to pay to plant a tree to ‘correct’ the damage done by flying across the globe. But the problem is that those trees will take decades to grow and actually fulfil that promise. So the idea of maintaining this idea of ‘carbon neutrality’ kind of feels like all talk and no action.
I think the idea is fantastic, but unfortunately not entirely what we should be relying on in our efforts to ‘save the planet’. Sadly, climate change isn’t something you can throw money at and wait for it all to go away. Our actions are quickly catching up with us.
While I applaud the idea of carbon offsetting, I don’t find myself jumping at the chance to pay companies quite a large sum of money to potentially do absolutely nothing in terms of funding environmental projects. Which is a huge problem with the entire concept. How do I know I’m not paying someone £50 to ‘reverse the effects’ of my flight to Barcelona, and instead just paying someone for having a convincing enough website?
The fact we have so little regulations in place to prevent this kind of con artistry happening makes it all the more confusing to me. I could easily start up a website tomorrow and let the payments roll in.
Instead of carbon offsetting, here’s a few things you could do instead;
I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.