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Carbon Offsetting in the Workplace

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 20 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Carbon Footprint Climate Change Carbon

Carbon offsetting. The words are bandied around as if they’re a solution to climate change, a way of lowering carbon footprints and undoing the damage caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

More and more lately they’ve been taken up by businesses and places of work. But are they effective or simply a way of salving consciences. Can paying to have trees planted to cover the CO2 used in a business plane flight really lower the carbon footprint?

How Carbon Offsetting Works

For work, you need to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide emissions for trips, for instance, or even from the workplace itself. That equates to an amount of currency which can be paid to fund projects, mostly in developing countries, that can lower the carbon footprint there – planting trees, or schemes that help farmers work efficiently without contributing to climate change. However, the money can also stay closer to home, to be used for wind farms or hydroelectric dams that generate much cleaner power, for example. Larger companies can purchase so-called 'carbon credits', which can then be traded – although this is far more along the conscience salve lines, paying lip service to lowering a carbon footprint than doing something concrete about it.

If the business aim is to become carbon neutral – which is laudable, but very ambitious – then it needs a bigger plan, one that not only includes offsetting the reduce the carbon footprint, but intensively lowering the carbon dioxide emissions, too.

Using Carbon Offsetting At Work

Some business trips are unavoidable, that’s just the way of the world. Those can be mitigated by the use of carbon offsetting, even though it doesn’t reverse the carbon dioxide emissions of the plane trip. But carbon offsetting is best used as part of a larger, committed strategy to lower the carbon footprint at work. A business really can make a difference.

That includes such simple things as recycling paper, printer cartridges and anything else that’s recyclable, cutting down on consumption – turning off lights, computers and appliances at night, among other things – and looking at the way the business is run.

For those wanting to join carbon offsetting schemes, there are many available, and a little research online will offer plenty of alternatives. However, do that research carefully – some schemes are better than others, and as the popularity of carbon offsetting has increased, scammers have also entered the market. If your business is going to carbon offset, make sure the money is actually going somewhere worthwhile, and not a crook’s bank account!

The Problem With Carbon Offsetting

Does carbon offsetting really work? The answer has to be yes and no. As part of a larger initiative at work to lower the carbon footprint of a business and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, implement greater recycling and other strategies, then yes, it most certainly does.

If your workplace wants to introduce (or already has) carbon offsetting as a stand-alone Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), though, try to persuade them to introduce more measures, especially if they’re still indulging in all the same practices as before, with plenty of business trips involving flights, not lower petrol consumption, and so on. None of that actually lowers the carbon footprint of the business, which is the most important factor. Planting trees in Africa or offering renewable energy to a farm in Asia is laudable and good, but it doesn’t address the more immediate problem.

Carbon offsetting is good, but nothing is a substitute, at home or at work, for a strong reduction in the carbon footprint.

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