Yahoo recently launched green.yahoo.com
They have an easy to use calculator for understanding how much carbon your household emits per year, and an easy way to create a plan to reduce your emissions.
They state that the average American emits 9.44 tons of CO2 / year.
I used their calculator to figure out our combined carbon footprint. Our total was a whopping 47.6 tons a year! WAY ABOVE AVERAGE. I was very surprised because we actually live with green in mind. We use flourescent light bulbs, we recycle, I live close to work, up until recently we commuted via public transit, etc. Then, I examined the breakdown, I was
surprised to find that our combined air travel was the culprit. Not driving and not the things we were doing at home. Taking vacations & traveling for work - that's what's doing it.
Actually, our combined total for "on the road" and "at home" only comes to 9 tons / year - less than the average American emits.
Anyway, I clicked on the link to make a plan. This easy to use tool gives you a great way to understand what you can do to minimize your impact. So, as an experiment, I went through the tool & selected things that we already do just to see what the impact would be.
The result? We can lower that total to 45.39 metric tons per year - we're still way above the average. Unfortunately, even if we eliminate all "at home" and "on the road" carbon emissions - I just can't see a way to limit air travel. At a bare minimum, Maria has to go to China a couple of times a year for work, and I go to a couple of conferences per year. She's got family in Detroit, and we have a travel bug - so what to do? Basically - we have to buy carbon offsets for the other 45 metric tons of co2.
How to buy carbon offsets? There are some interesting companies. One I heard about a while ago at a conference is TerraPass - they even have a "Flight TerraPass" where you can calculate your flights and they have a package to match your miles flown. They then use your money to fund clean energy projects that reduce CO2 emissions. How much for our flights? $149.95
Note - they even have a promotion to turn in your old cell phones & pda's for credit towards a TerraPass. They also have gift certificates... Maybe I'll buy these for my corporate gifts this year.
Buyer beware - be sure whatever company you choose to buy offsets from is independently audited & verified.
BTW - Portland Oregon ranked as the #1 most green city