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July 2 2019

What in the World are Carbon Offsets?

By Anita Fête Crews

Have you heard about carbon offsets? They may be just what you and your congregation are looking for in your journey to zero-emissions! The Blessed Tomorrow Carbon Offset Program helps congregations cancel out their emissions.

Many of us are familiar with the basic actions we can take to reduce our collective carbon footprint. We recycle, pack plastic-free lunches, walk and bike when we can, turn off lights and use LED bulbs, and use our canvas tote bags. It’s frustrating to me that no matter how “good” I try to be, I can’t seem to get my carbon footprint to “zero.” I have to drive to get to work. I like fair-trade coffee, but it’s also flown in from a different continent. I, like my coffee, fly regularly. 

Our places of worship can experience these unavoidable, carbon-intensive habits on a larger scale. Be it rusty old vans, outdated heating and cooling systems, or poor insulation, these factors all add up. The way we live right now, as individuals and as congregations, simply isn’t carbon neutral—but it can be.

Carbon offsets are an innovative and relatively new concept, and they help reduce the carbon impacts of an action to zero, making it a “carbon neutral” action. The carbon released into the atmosphere by your action is equal to the carbon captured and removed from the atmosphere by the carbon offsets. A simple way to understand carbon offsets is to picture a familiar situation: your favorite dessert is in front of you, but eating it would put you significantly over your daily recommended calorie intake. You decide to eat it. How do you “make up” for that dessert? You’ll probably go for a run, or maybe hit the gym. Once you burn off the extra calories the dessert gave you, you’ve worked back down to your daily calorie goal! Carbon offsets are essentially a way to “make up” for your carbon emissions, toward carbon neutrality.

Cool Effect, our partner for this program, has helped over 500,000 people “cancel out” their carbon emissions. Say your congregation has a fleet of older vans that are perfect for youth trips and missions, but they’re gas-guzzlers. Carbon offsets will let you “make up” for the vans’ pollution by funding initiatives that remove carbon from the atmosphere. Offsets are a fraction of the cost of investments like solar panels. A typical congregation can expect to pay between $100-200 a year to participate in carbon offsetting. With your participation, Cool Effect will remove carbon through funding various initiatives such as planting trees, building wind turbines, or any number of eco-conscious projects. Although you’re producing carbon emissions, an equal amount of carbon emissions are simultaneously removed from the atmosphere. Net zero. 

Want a deeper, more visual explanation of how carbon offsets work? Check out this video from our friends at Cool Effect!

While carbon offsets can be bought for an individual household, they’re especially well-suited for houses of worship. Creation care is a process, and many communities can’t afford to install solar panels or replace their HVAC unit just yet. Carbon offsets help your community offset those carbon emissions right now. Is your congregation already carbon neutral? Use carbon offsets to go carbon negative, meaning you are actually reversing climate change, not just remaining neutral

You can learn more about the Blessed Tomorrow Carbon Offset program, powered by Cool Effect, here. You’ll find a congregation calculator to figure out what your congregation’s carbon footprint is right now. Spread the word—go carbon neutral with carbon offsets!

Blessed Tomorrow and ecoAmerica do not benefit financially from anyone’s participation in the Blessed Tomorrow Carbon Offset program (but the environment will thank you!). If you wish to donate to ecoAmerica, you can do so here.

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