Sunday, December 14, 2008

Covering Your Carbon Footprints

We all live on the Earth. We all eat the food, drink the water, and breath the air. And we all contribute pollutants that will significantly affect the quality of life of generations to come.

For example:

(1) Driving a medium-size car produces about 0.75 pounds of greenhouse gasses (mostly carbon dioxide) per mile. (This is regardless of the number of passengers.) For a common amount of personal automobile travel, that comes to about 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

(2) Flying in a commercial jet releases just over a pound of greenhouse gasses (i.e., carbon dioxide) per mile for each passenger. So flying between San Francisco and Boston produces about 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger (round trip).

(3) If the typical power-utilities bill for your house (combining natural gas and electricity use) runs about $130 per month, that equates to about 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year

How much pollution damage each individual does is called one's "carbon footprint." It's size depends a lot on life-style choices. In addition, one can reduce one's net carbon footprint by buying carbon-pollution offsets that help to fund non-polluting alternative energy projects.

Businesses and industries trade carbon-pollution offsets: a factory, for example, that produces inordinate greenhouse gas emissions can balance this by paying a fee to another non-polluting production activity. In addition, a company named TerraPass ( sells carbon-footprint offsets for individuals. The projects funded by TerraPass reduce methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) released from landfills or from dairy operations. Some carbon-offset plan companies have come under criticism for not being very faithful (or truthful). But TerraPass assures its users that all its funding projects are carefully scrutinized, audited as to their effectiveness, and certified by third-party engineers and laboratories.

The TerraPass website also provides several fascinating calculators for figuring out the carbon expense of particular lifestyle choices--the kind of car one drives and how much one drives it, home-energy utilities (gas and electricity) patterns, etc.

Carbon-offset shares from Terrapass cost $70 per year to cover an average car, $120 per year for an average home, and $180 per year for a typical individual.

Take a look at the TerraPass website and consider making a contribution to antipollution equal to the pollution costs of your stay on Earth. Your children and grandchildren will be glad you did.