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.
TerraPass 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.