Saturday, May 21, 2011

Offset your carbon emission usage to feel better and make a difference

I was a little leary of carbon offset programs, but as I read more into, they have a very rigorous process for validating projects. Even though I do drive a Prius, I do impact the environment with the gas I purchase and consume. I also commute 25 miles each way, five days a week, so those miles add up to about 15,000 per year.

Therefore, I decided to offset the last years worth of driving. According to their calculator, I have contributed almost 3 metric tons of CO2 to the environment in the last year. To offset that amount, I had to pay about $30, or around $2.50 per month. That seems very reasonable to me, and it helps me feel slightly better about my driving habits.

Don't get me wrong. Paying someone to allow me to continue my bad behavior is not the intent. The alternative is that I don't spend the $30 on anything related to the environment, so I'm letting them do it for me. I don't want to pay that amount each year (as affordable as it is), so there is some incentive for me to continue to find ways to reduce my driving.

If businesses and companies were forced to offset their carbon footprint each year, imagine how many projects we could get started? For example, my company generates about 150,000 metric tons per year. If they paid $10 per metric ton (which is what charges), that would be about $1.5 million! Imagine how many solar and wind projects we could implement with that kind of investment! (As a side note, my company has set aside $500,000 to fund energy reducion projects this year, which is a great start).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Good movie about where electricity comes from

We attended a green expo today, and one of the sessions was a 1-hour video called "Kilowatt Ours: A Plan to Re-Energize America", which was made in 2007. I hadn't even heard of it before, but I was very impressed with it.

The movie, created by Jeff Barrie, explores the source of our electricity and the problems caused by energy production including mountain top removal, childhood asthma and global warming. He walks through step-by-step how you can reduce your energy usage in your home and learn more about "green" renewable energy. 

One of the better parts of the movie was the discussion about energy conservation that many cities have taken on. Instead of building new power plants to address their increasing energy demands, the city of Austin, and the state of California spent a fraction of the power plant construction costs on education and rebates. In Iowa, we are having the discussion right now about building a new nuclear plant to meet our increasing energy demand, so that really hit home for me.

You can also download a classroom exercise for grade school kids, that corresponds with the movie

You can learn more about the movie at