Buying Carbon Offsets - The Easy Way Out For The Polluter? 
In last Monday's post, we gave a short (and possibly too simple, because it truly can be complicated – but we like simple; simple is good), explanation of carbon footprints.

And we left you with the teaser that we’d talk about the pros and cons of purchasing carbon offsets to mitigate the damage you (and I, and your little dog, too) make to the ozone just by living.

So here we are. Again, here’s a simple definition of what carbon offsets are, brought to you by a “carbon offset is a financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

In other words, you pay money (to a certain entity – more on that in a moment) to pay – or offset – all the carbon footprints your very existence is leaving on this planet.

*Cartoon is from Gary Varvel's Blog - VarvBlog

Some folks say carbon offsets are just the another way for the rich among humans to pay off their guilt, something akin to writing a check to the homeless shelter instead of going down there and bringing your extra food, blankets and – how about this for an idea – actually volunteering your time at the facility.

But others say offsets truly can do good. The Unlikely Activist at his blog had this to say in January 2007 about purchasing offsets:

There are dozens of companies and non-profit organizations who provide easy ways to calculate your footprint, and will offer offsets for any budget, and across a range of projects...For less than $100, the average American can offset their annual personal footprint--as reported in A Consumer's Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers (PDF), issued in late 2006 by the nonprofit Clean Air-Cool Planet.

The sticky wicket comes, the Activist continues, when this comes up, “...the issue of additionality, namely, did your offset contribution fund emission reductions beyond those that were already in a place (in a business-as-usual sense)?”
In other words, is your offset purchase going toward 50 trees that the Sierra Club was going to plant anyway? Or will the Sierra Club now plant an additional 55 trees?

Purchasing the sustainable and renewable office furnishings we sell is one way to help reduce your company’s carbon footprint. Purchasing carbon offsets is another. There are thousands of other ways to help reduce the impact of business and industry on the environment. As long as you are making an active effort to do your part, that's all that matters.

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