Now that Spring Break has come to an end and everyone has returned from the beaches, it often becomes painfully apparent how much ground you had to cover for that week of vacation. The miles and hours add up to taking quite a toll on your body, mind and wallet. (Although let’s be honest, the ocean is totally worth it).
However, the mass exodus made my students over Spring Break adds up to more than just miles, hours and dollars.
Every tank of gas bought and mile marker passed also adds up to emissions of carbon dioxide and other industrial pollutants into our atmosphere. Popular Spring Break destinations in Southern Florida can amount to anywhere from 16-24 hours spent traveling by car. And while air travel may cut down on time and discomfort, the carbon footprint is exponentially greater.
If you’re looking to compensate for some of your guilt in contributing to greenhouse gas pollution, purchasing carbon offsets could be a viable option to help make up for the damage already done. Organizations such as TerraPass (www.terrapass.com) offer this innovative market solution that contributes the money you spend purchasing offsets to worthwhile environmental causes such as creating renewable energies, cleaning up old landfills and funding sustainable agriculture projects.
The idea behind carbon offsets is that while you may have contributed fossil fuels or pollutants to the global environment, the offsets you purchase can then be used to fund natural ecosystems that can absorb and purify those same polluting elements to which you contributed, out of the atmosphere. For example, offsets purchased toward reforestation, preserving national park land, or helping to start community gardens can help put more plants and trees on Earth’s surface. This vegetation is a natural absorber of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that contribute to climate change.
The main concept behind this market driven solution to pollution is to make consumers aware to the consequences, or to use more economic terms “externalities”, or their actions.
When you realize that, in order to offset that 16 hour trip in your gas-guzzling Jeep to Florida, you would need to then purchase twice as many carbon offsets to make up for your pollution, it will hopefully make consumers think twice about the transportation choices they make. Collective awareness of everyday effects on the environment such as these can then push the public towards more sustainable lifestyles. Could you look into booking a bus trip for your next vacation? Would purchasing a hybrid car make more sense financially for your long journeys? More importantly, when will the US finally get a cross-country, high-speed rail system like Europe has had for decades? (Traveling to Florida by train in under 9 hours? Yes, please!)
Market driven mechanisms such as carbon offsets can hopefully further develop to make everyday consumer like us realize that our dollars have power, and where we spend them, or don’t, can create or prevent better opportunities from developing. So don’t worry about your guilty-conscious from Spring Break, and focus on greening up your next vacation!