"It suggests the problem can be solved by a small donation" Jutta Kill, Forests and the European Union Resource Network (FERN) "The most problematic aspect of carbon offsetting is that it gives out the wrong message. By suggesting the problem can be resolved by a small financial donation, it creates an illusion that it isn't that bad. Where's the educational impetus in that? "Then there are the issues with tree planting. In one project in India, money was paid for mango trees but many were never planted and a considerable number didn't survive: local people were given the saplings but no funding for watering and a prolonged drought meant many trees died. Our colleagues in India say this happens to numerous tree plantations. Many companies acknowledge the problems but keep these projects in their portfolios as the public likes the idea of planting trees. "Other projects can also be problematic. For example, giving out energy-efficient light bulbs where people struggle with power cuts doesn't help the supply problems and the people can't afford to replace the bulbs. But it's all about selling ideas and it's easier to catch the public imagination with the notion of an impoverished community in, say, Uganda, getting energy-efficient stoves than with the idea of improving insulation on a British housing estate - which may offer similar, or better, results in carbon terms. "Instead of buying carbon offsets, we should support local, renewable-energy projects such as wind power and micro-hydro schemes. With regional projects, you can actually see what is happening; if you pay someone else to run a project on the other side of the world, there's a much greater possibility of something going wrong. We can support worthwhile green projects without using a carbon-offset company as a middleman."
Some companies do this as a rule and I wondered how much it would cost me each year to offset my carbon print with regards to energy use. A description of what it means can be found on the carbonneutral website which also provides a calculator and local projects you can invest in to offset your use of CO2 releases in the atmosphere. The first step has to be to reduce the amount you contribute whether you are a company or individual and I think the idea to offset it against local projects has potential. Its a useful exercise to check what your emissions are and what you can do to work on a zero carbon footprint.If you are serious about achieving zero carbon footprint then of course you go ahead and find out what you need to do about that. I agree with the principle but I am still working on reducing the energy, food and consumer needs I have and when I get to a level that is sustainable I am certainly open to investing in making my footprint as light as possible. Its a work in progress for me. In the end analysis we all have to pay in one way or another for what we use, but it gets out of balance when other countries suffer because I have used too many resources.