There's been a boom in awareness around environmental issues in Australia in the past 18 months or so. In particular, the local water crisis and the refusal of our Prime Minister to agree to the Kyoto Protocol have been big news. This week, I watched An Inconvenient Truth and was fascinated by the clarity and enormity of the global warming issue as presented by Al Gore. It triggered some discussion between my wife and I about going carbon neutral, so I began doing some research into it.
Today I offset the carbon produced by my house and car, effectively making a big chunk of my life carbon neutral. It was surprisingly cheap, costing only about $300 Australian dollars per year. To become carbon neutral, the simplest thing to do is to purchase carbon offset products. You measure the amount of carbon produced by your life using some simple calculators, and the companies that sell the carbon offsets make sure an equivalent amount of carbon is reduced from some other emissions. The David Suzuki Foundation provides a good description of carbon offsets and how they work.
Whilst the issue is a global one, I wanted to purchase carbon offsets locally to help raise local awareness. A quick search of the market found both Men of the Trees, who provide a tree planting program, and Neco, who also plant trees amongst other carbon abatement activities. Whilst tree planting is an important activity, it doesn't conform to the Gold Standard for carbon offset products, which badges them as being compliant with the Kyoto Protocol. Tree planting in particular is not a permanent change, and doesn't address the root cause of our dependance on fossil fuels.
Eventually, I found Climate Friendly, who sell carbon offsets that fund local wind farms in Australia and New Zealand. Wind farm technology does comply with the Gold Standard, so I was was happy that I was both supporting local awareness and offsetting my carbon output as best I could.