(Sort of) offsetting our carbon footprint

Hi there! It’s been a while!

Given that today is Earth Day, I thought I’d finally take action on something that has been on my mind for quite a while: offsetting in some way (part of) our family’s carbon footprint.

We travel quite a bit, to visit family or go on vacation, and I feel guilty every time I fly. And although we do now have solar panels that cover virtually all our electrical needs, we do rely on propane to heat our home. That’s definitely not 100% of our whole impact, but I hope that’s already some chunk of it.

So I decided to proceed in two steps:

  • Calculate an estimate of our carbon footprint (for 2016, I plan on doing this every year)
  • Figure out how to offset it: it turns out this is not so simple.

The first step is easy: there are plenty of tools out there. I picked this one, and used the House, Flight, and Car tabs. I (of course) counted flights for the whole family, and included business trips for myself.

It only took a few minutes to get this:

  • Flights: 33.73 metric tons of CO2. At roughly $13/ton, that’s $450.
  • House: In 2016, we bought 707.3 Gallons from our propane company (this number can be easily found on each bill). At 5.7 metric tons of CO2 per 1000 gallons, that’s about 4 metric tons, so $52.
  • Car: I proudly drive an e-golf, but we still have a gas-powered minivan to haul the family. We roughly drove 4000 miles on that car last year, which gave me 1.43 metric tons in the calculator above, so $19.

Grand total: $521

Now to the key part: how do you offset your carbon footprint? There are many diverging opinions on the worthiness of carbon offset initiatives, and I haven’t been able to figure out whether using carbon offset programs is really guaranteed to result in a real impact in the long run. So here is what I decided to do: I didn’t “offset” my carbon footprint per se, but instead donated the money to environmental organizations. I hope that these organizations will make good use of this money to fight global warming and other environmental issues at a greater scale.

Here is my pick:

They all have Donate buttons that are very easy to find. I shared the money evenly among them.

Not that hard, right? I hope some of you will be inspired to do the same! If you do, or if you have any suggestions/comments, feel free to drop me a note 🙂


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