Want to buy carbon offsets? It might not solve your eco anxiety...
At a glance:
- To buy carbon offsets is a brilliant way to fund climate solutions and become climate positive.
- But it is just a piece of the puzzle and shouldn't be a quick fix to yur eco anxiety.
- It must be seen in conjunction with measuring and reducing your carbon output
We admit... it's a bit strange we're writing an article that is not encouraging everyone to buy carbon offsets galore. Carbon offsetting is, after all, one of the key aspects of Furthr. But at our core is being realistic, and if we didn’t highlight what we do below, then it just wouldn't feel right!
What is Eco-Anxiety?
Eco anxiety does what it says on the tin. It describes the fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster, which all-so-often seems to be induced whenever we switch on our phones and see updates on how we're damaging our planet. There are - luckily - remedies to this anxiety, which of course double up as solutions to the climate emergency.
One option that is starting to gain traction is buying carbon offsets.
So, why buy carbon offsets?
Carbon offsetting is the funding of projects (often in developing countries) that remove Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere or prevent it entering the atmosphere in the first place. The idea is that as people generate a certain amount CO2 through their day to day life, they can “offset” their carbon footprint by funding projects that remove that same amount of CO2 from the atmosphere elsewhere.
Carbon offsetting is made possible through the sale of a Carbon Credits. A Carbon Credit is the removal of 1 ton of CO2, sold by the projects removing CO2. There are many different types of projects offering Carbon Credits including:
- Planting trees to restore forests or protecting trees from being cut down
- Renewable energy projects
- Methane (and other greenhouse gas) capture and storage projects
- Increased energy efficiency of buildings, cooking and transportation
Individuals, businesses and governments have been buying carbon offsets for some time now to have carbon neutral flights, conferences, weddings and music festivals. However, is carbon offsetting the silver bullet the world has been looking for?
Measure, reduce and then offset
We see buying carbon offsets as the final step in taking personal accountability for our own footprint and making peace with your eco anxiety. The first step is to understand what the big problem areas are for your footprint – for example do you drive alone in your car a lot? do you travel by plane a lot? or do you eat red meat a lot? Beginning to understand how almost all aspects of our life involve some form of emissions can be a cause for eco anxiety but jumping straight to offsetting you will have missed a key step.
Once you understand the carbon intensive activities of your lifestyle you should first form strategies and adjust habits to reduce your footprint. This could be adjusting the way you travel, changing your diet or purchasing more eco-friendly products and services. Obviously, the ideal scenario would be to have such a low carbon footprint after all your reductions that you didn’t need to offset anything! But at Furthr we are climate realists and understand that there are always going to be parts of your carbon footprint that you can’t or aren’t willing to change.
Here there is a careful balance that needs to be decided by the individual – how much of your lifestyle are you willing to adjust to balance lowering your carbon footprint and the comfort enjoyed by your current lifestyle. You, and only you, can decide this balance before moving into the final stage, which is offsetting the parts of your footprint that you are unwilling to change.
Action over inaction
In the short term, buying carbon offsets is perhaps the only means to address the parts of your footprint that you are unwilling to remove all together. What buying carbon offsets will not solve is the fundamental rethinking and restructuring of our carbon intensive economies on a macro scale driven from government and business leaders.
However, given the urgency of the climate change crisis, we favour action over inaction—and furthermore imperfect action now over hypothetically perfect action later. If we all offset our reduced footprint and then some extra we will be a better place than waiting for a flawless carbon neutral policy from slow moving government or businesses.