Parrish Rhodes [“Be Careful Where You Step,” Letters, Dec. 12] correctly observes that we all have a carbon footprint from our activities. She also says to reduce [greenhouse gas emissions] first, [and] concludes by suggesting people consider carbon offsets: paying for reduction in emissions elsewhere to compensate for [those] you cannot eliminate. She names Terrapass as her choice.
Carbon-offset programs have become more numerous, and criticism mounts as to the legitimacy and true effectiveness, due to some questionable practices and lack of oversight or standards.
I would like to suggest a local alternative: Appalachian Offsets (www.wncgbc.org/offset). This program was created as an educational tool to be completely transparent so people know exactly how their offset money is used, and [to] guarantee that offset funds go toward projects that would not have happened otherwise.
Large-scale programs such as CarbonFund.org, which is considered one the nation’s best, purchase renewable energy credits … and fund reforestation projects that calculate offsets based on carbon absorbed by trees over an undefined number of years, or efficiency upgrades made at industrial facilities—which save the company money and probably would have happened otherwise. The result is a carbon offset cost of $4 to $5 per ton. Since Appalachian Offsets projects are new installations that would not have happened otherwise, the cost for that program is $12 to $15 per ton. Other large offset programs, such as TerraPass, have done a good job at being as transparent as possible … and have costs of about $10 per ton, but mostly use credits versus funding new projects. The important thing is just to understand where your money is going.
Appalachian Offsets was developed as an alternative to bring our community together to combat a global problem locally. The first offset project funded by businesses and individuals in the region took place Sept. 11 [when] over 300 University of North Carolina-Asheville students volunteered with the Asheville Housing Authority and changed out 5,500 incandescent light bulbs for CFLs in only four hours, saving over 2.5 million kwh, or $220,000 in electricity costs, and reducing carbon pollution by 1,610 tons over the bulbs’ lifetimes. … Future projects will include installing solar hot-water systems on affordable housing units, and other renewable energy projects.
Administered by the Western North Carolina Green Building Council, Appalachian Offsets is the nation’s first locally based carbon-offsetting program. Go to www.wncgbc.org/offset, calculate your carbon footprint, reduce what you can first and then consider contributing to offset some or all of what you can’t eliminate.
– Boone Guyton