What self-respecting travel forum could live cheek to jowl with an eco-tourism forum and not discuss carbon footprints? Well, not this one!
One of the reasons I thought this would be a good maiden post is because when I began researching ecotourism destinations, I kept coming up with sites for faraway locations…which gets me thinking that maybe it’s a little hypocritical to call it ecotourism if you’re pumping more than a ton of CO2 into the environment (flying from New York to Anchorage). And the other reason is because I didn’t know anything about carbon footprints or carbon offsets.
So what to do? Well, while I was searching for those cool ecotourism destinations, I found a link to something else very cool: TerraPass. Before you travel, go to their website and use their cool tool to calculate the impact of your flight. Then you buy carbon offsets through them that are roughly equivalent to the carbon dioxide created by your trip.
Now, if you’re just beginning your environmental education like I am, that last statement brings up another question: What the heck is a carbon offset? Now that I’ve been to the TerraPass website, I can answer that question.
A single offset equals one metric ton of reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Fly to Anchorage from New York, and you’re creating 2,600 pounds of carbon dioxide. You go to TerraPass, and you buy an equivalent offset for $39.60. They then take that $39.60 and donate it to their selected clean energy projects: wind power, farm power (who knew they could create energy from cow manure), and landfill methane capture (who knew that anything good could come from a landfill). And you are now carbon balanced.
Of course, that one trip is only the baby toe on your carbon footprint. If you want to find out more about your impact on the planet, TerraPass has calculators for your car and home, too. For instance, the 8,000 miles a year that I drive my 2002 Volvo station wagon adds almost 8,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the environment. That’s $39.60 to scrub my karma clean. My house and its energy consumption are responsible for another 20 tons of carbon dioxide. That's a whole lot of imbalance.
Whether you go to Alaska or not, and whether you buy offsets or not, go to the Terra Pass website. Look around. Check out the calculators and the gift shop. Learning more about your carbon footprint shouldn’t make you change your mind about travel, but it should open your eyes at least a little…and that’s the first step in any great journey.