As the world continues to increase its use of fossil fuels, more and more people are becoming aware of and concerned with the impact of their personal energy consumption. There are all sorts of tools available on the Internet that can help you determine your personal carbon output, and even the output of your entire family.
What's more, it's becoming easier to actually do something about controlling the impact of your output. Today, there are many energy companies offering customers ways to offset their carbon footprint.
Rather than simply exposing the world to the effects of your carbon emissions, purchasing carbon offsets allows you to effectively reduce the impact of your lifestyle by supporting various programs that compensate for your emissions in some way.
OK, so this kind of can be confusing. Let's take a moment to look at some of the most common types of carbon offset programs to get a better idea of how they can actually compensate for our emissions.
Renewable energy credits
Even though renewable energy technology has come a long way in the last few years, it’s still far from "cheap." Unless you have a lot of money to throw around and happen to own a home in the perfect spot, the viability of installing your own green energy infrastructure can still be a stretch.
Renewable energy credits, or RECs, offer consumers another way to support green energy technology. Rather than buying your own solar panels or wind turbines, you can simply purchase a few RECs and know you've done your part.
RECs represent units of energy produced by green energy technology which are sold by energy producers to individuals, companies and the even the government. For each REC you purchase, you're balancing out more and more of your energy consumption.
Because RECs are basically units of green energy, buying them means you're introducing green energy to the grid that would otherwise not be there. When you purchase enough RECs to match your overall energy usage, you're effectively offsetting your energy consumption.
Carbon absorption models
Another popular carbon offset model revolves around harnessing the natural power of plants to consume carbon dioxide. Deforestation has certainly played a part in the overall increase of carbon levels in the atmosphere. By replenishing the world's forests, it stands to reason that more carbon will be absorbed from the atmosphere.
These models have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years because their effectiveness is hard to measure. After all, trees and other plants are living things – and thus susceptible to disease and death. The amount of carbon any given plant can absorb depends largely on its overall health and lifespan. Still, planting a tree does help reduce carbon in the atmosphere and it also serves many other purposes from erosion prevention to creating shade!
Gas trapping methods
A lot of people don't realize that while carbon emissions are part of the problem there are other greenhouse gases that are much more impactful on the atmosphere. In fact, methane emissions are exponentially worse than carbon emissions. However, when properly trapped and cleaned, methane gas can also serve as a fuel.
Another way people can offset their carbon output is to invest in biogas facilities. These waste treatment centers trap the gases produced through the natural process of decomposition that can damage the atmosphere. Once the gases are trapped and cleaned they can be burned as fuel, further helping to reduce the overall impact on the atmosphere by preventing other dirtier fuels from giving off emissions.