Is Carbon Offsetting The Environmental Equivalent To Sending Roses?

by guest-blogger Craig Platt

Watch this video to understand the situation

As the saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. So goes the running argument about whether offsetting your carbon footprint is a useful contribution to our eco-system or just another futile exercise in pretending to be doing good by spending your all-mighty dollar.

It’s in the headlines: NewsCorp and Yahoo have been some of the more vocal companies offsetting their footprints. While Yahoo is quite honest that their plan is for the future, they are very hesitant to point out what they are doing to actually reduce their footprint at this very moment. Corporate carbon offsetting is achievable with the help of carbonclick.com.

The wisecracking people of Cheat Neutral have gone ahead and pointed out the true irony in Offsetting. They’re comparing it to cheating on your girlfriend or spouse and then sending her flowers, chocolates and jewelry.

This UK-based website offers “cheaters” the opportunity to offset their infidelity by supporting a faithful couple. Register as a faithful couple or just a single person and you will receive money to nurture your pure lifestyle, “All you have to do is agree to stay monogamous or single – and if we match you with a suitable cheater, you’ll get paid to neutralise their cheating.”

And if you’re a cheater: “By paying CheatNeutral, you’re funding monogamy-boosting offset projects – we simply invest the money you give us in monogamous, faithful or just plain single people, to encourage them to stay that way.”

This ridiculous idea (argued here) is essentially the equivalent to the mindset that we can offset carbon wastefulness by paying to plant trees, or investing in the development of clean industry and research for a greener world. Further, many of the offsetting organizations misrepresent themselves, wasting equally as they raise funds that will not be put to carbon offsetting until funding has been satisfactorily raised, which could take up to ten years. Even when they do get to the work of carbon offsetting the ecosystem will likely not begin to feel its affects for another 50 to 100 years.

Why not stay faithful to your beliefs? Because that sweet looking, Styrofoam-encased smoothie was just too hard to resist, that’s why. So you just wrapped you lips around its non-decomposing edge, blissfully engaging in the excitement of it’s lusciousness.

If we’re told it’s okay to misbehave, so long as we pay the tax, it sends the wrong message. We do not need to be offsetting our disregard for the environment. We need to be correcting it. And CheatNeutral is simply putting it into terms that the layperson can understand. Keep it in your recycling bin. For more information on organizations involved in carbon offsetting see Native Energy and ICF.

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.