When it comes to buying carbon offsets to neutralize the amount of CO2 our energy consumption creates, all options are not created equal. Here's an article in The Seattle Times with some tips on making an informed, effective choice about your carbon offsets purchase.
The tips include...
Peek behind the curtain. Don't accept claims of carbon-offset providers at face value. Ask questions: Who are their partners and endorsers? Do they undergo independent audits to confirm that the money helps the right projects? How do their prices compare with other providers? Which industry standards do they use?
No double-dipping. Make sure a carbon-offset provider's projects offer what is known in the industry as "additionality." In other words, they should not be projects that would have happened anyway without the funding from carbon offsets (such as projects mandated by a government).
Think twice about trees. While they may help the environment in other ways, tree-planting or reforestation projects are the most controversial types of carbon-offset projects. Trees absorb CO2, but scientists disagree on the effectiveness of tree-planting to reduce global warming.
Look in your own backyard. When carbon-offset providers or projects have Northwest roots, you may have more of a connection and greater accountability.
Power up. You can also "think globally and act locally" by joining the green power programs offered by local utilities.
First things first. Before you invest in carbon offsets or green power, make sure you've done all you can to reduce your environmental impact: Drive less, insulate your home, install energy-efficient appliances and buy less stuff. Carbon offsets will never replace good old-fashioned conservation.