19 June 2007

let's talk carbon offsets

Note: ecological nightmare + purchasing carbon offsets does not equal the best you can do

With that out of the way I thought I would add my two cents about purchasing carbon offsets to make a wedding move towards a carbon nuetral event. Click here to read the Wikipedia article about Carbon Offsets. The basic jist is that carbon is released into the atmosphere via carbon dioxide and various gases as a bi-product of our biology as well as our industrial and technological waste. These gases are linked towards many global threats such as reduced ozone, increased surface temperatures, etc. Various companies have created ways to theoretically reduce the impact of the carbon you contribute to the world by offering "credits" in the form of reforestation projects, alternative technology implementation, etc. The key word is theoretically because these offsets are meant to do something but the action of the carbon release still occurs.

We contribute to carbon release all the freakin time especially in first world nations. You can do an internet search to find generators that figure out your ecological footprint to let you know how the way you live your life impacts the Earth and how many planets we would need if everyone on ours lived a life the way you do. However weddings seem to be a bit taboo when it comes to this subject. Even the sanest, most well intentioned couple can throw common sense out of the window to achieve a dream wedding. I am even guilty of this. My fiance and I are planning our wedding in Costa Rica for goodness sake. Most of the guests are flying from the United States. They would have to have traveled all over the place anyway, but we are guilty of making the destination a tropical get-away in Central America. Why didn't we choose Montana, Tennessee, or Redwood Country? Simply because we (as usually sane people) like Costa Rica a whole hell of a lot. We had to struggle with the decision of trading in better eco-sense for a loving experience with a few of the closest people in our circles on a 5-day trip.

We are getting a lot of praise for our eco-conscious efforts beyond the travel. We are using organic products locally produced around our destination. Socially we are having the wedding party and guests spend one day volunteering with a local project benefitting some of the few remaining indigenous folks in the country. We are having guests also bring down wish list supplies for this organization (The Bridge). The vendors we are using are locals and our financial contributions will help their family-run businesses. It is a little cheeky when people comment on how good we are because in truth we are still bastards in the whole low-impact scheme of things.

So how do we sleep at night? We justly proclaim we are doing the best we can. And we are contributing a donation to a LaDanta Salvaje, a primary forest reserve project. The money we are contributing will go towards the maintenance of this reserve. The land was purchased but it needs to be maintained against animal and plant poachers, it is used for outreach purposes, etc. Our money will not go towards planting 250 new trees (where in reality a fraction will grow to sequester a sizeable amount of carbon). It will not go towards altering a huge area that is reflecting heat to absorbing heat and thus altering a landscape-level process. We know where our money is going. It has FONAFINO accredidation and is trustworthy non-government operation that we have faith in.

The three issues I want to point out with wedding carbon offsets are:
1. Reduce your carbon impact from the start by getting local products and reducing the travel and emissions related to your wedding as much as you feel comfortable with.

2. Use carbon-offsets as a tool to aid in your planning but realize that money does not wash away the carbon emissions you helped create.

3. Research the company you are buying your offsets from. They are companies that need to profit somewhere and all are not at the same level of ethics. Also learn how the money will be used because even though most companies have the best intentions, their end-product may not align with your values.

Like I stated, we are bastards for all of the travel emissions we are helping to generate, but we are doing the best we can. Good night.

P. S. Tomorrow night I will still have some guilt (the LaDanta shares don't offset that) but I will be better reconciled because this once in a lifetime experience we are sharing with our far-flung loved ones will mean a lot to us in the end.

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