Neutralizing Human Impact

I very recently became part of a program called TerraPass, which provides a way to counterbalance the amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by cars and planes by funding various renewable energy and forestry projects. I purchased a TerraPass Hybrid membership, which offsets the 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide my Prius is expected to emit over the next year.

Wind FarmTerraPass has long been an item of interest for the media (as well as other offset programs such as Drive Neutral, Climate Care, or the very interesting Better World Club). Expedia recently announced that it would begin offering TerraPass flight offset programs to its visitors booking flights, which is an admirable move, but certainly not the only way of purchasing such an offset (a user of Orbitz or Travelocity, for instance, could simply purchase an offset independently).

These programs feel backwards, because they don’t create a visible result – it’s certainly not the case that you no longer see carbon dioxide rising from that exhaust pipe! So what’s the point? Some argue that it’s a “feel good about yourself” move, which, to some extent, it is. I prefer a more holistic view: this is a way to create positive change and to begin to neutralize your own impact, whether that is through controversy or through the funding of programs that promote cleaner energy technologies and a greener environment. Human generation of massive amounts of carbon dioxide isn’t our only problem, but it is a problem. We must do what we can to help minimize the impacts of our existence in what is, at best, a fragile world.

  • Steve Ellis

    My principal concern with this approach is the integrity of the program in which you are “investing,” since you are depending upon others to achieve a result you favor. While an offset program can be intriguing and make you feel good, as with all charities or 501(c)(3) programs you have to wonder how effective they are, whether they are legitimate, and how much of your money actually makes it to the end result and how much is eaten up in administrative salaries and the like. I have no opinion on Terrapass one way or the other, but homework is required on all of these entities if you want to achieve maximum impact with your dollars. Some charities, like the Salvation Army, are very effective in using most of your dollars for their chosen goals; others, are very ineffective and use most of your money to fund salaries and administrative costs and very little of it to fund the projects for which they are founded. And then, of course, there are the scams. So, this is just a caution that while these programs may feel right, homework is advised prior to taking out a membership or contributing funds to them.

  • Steve Ellis

    My principal concern with this approach is the integrity of the program in which you are “investing,” since you are depending upon others to achieve a result you favor. While an offset program can be intriguing and make you feel good, as with all charities or 501(c)(3) programs you have to wonder how effective they are, whether they are legitimate, and how much of your money actually makes it to the end result and how much is eaten up in administrative salaries and the like. I have no opinion on Terrapass one way or the other, but homework is required on all of these entities if you want to achieve maximum impact with your dollars. Some charities, like the Salvation Army, are very effective in using most of your dollars for their chosen goals; others, are very ineffective and use most of your money to fund salaries and administrative costs and very little of it to fund the projects for which they are founded. And then, of course, there are the scams. So, this is just a caution that while these programs may feel right, homework is advised prior to taking out a membership or contributing funds to them.