What is your family’s carbon footprint from things you buy? Do you buy carbon offsets

  1. In what ways do you cut your non-home carbon footprint, such as that from traveling, driving, products you purchase, etc., if at all?

We minimize the carbon footprint we create before we offset the balance with audited, verified-incremental, carbon offsets that we buy from Cool Effect. I believe that you should cut where you can (e.g., with the fab four) and offset where you can’t. It is neither practical, nor financially justifiable, to cut everything to zero. So , where you can’t cut it makes sense to offset. Offsets are not that expensive. But first, cut…

We are big recyclers. We buy only organic food in the first place. We throw out almost nothing. Any edible waste goes to our chickens. The chickens fertilize our garden making our fruit and vegetable gardens very productive. And they give us eggs and meat. So we eat very well. We are not even close to being self sufficient and do not aspire to being so. But we do love the taste of asparagus in April, rhubarb in May, tomatoes and peas in June, cherries in July, peaches in August, just about everything in September, apples in October and pears even into November. Last October I succeeded in transplanting peppers and tomatoes in pots to be grown indoors (growing under LED grow lights powered by my solar panels) and we were eating them up to Christmas. Anything the chickens won’t eat (onions and citrus for instance) gets composted as does all our paper tissue products. Almost everything else gets recycled and we trash only about a single 50 liter (13 gallon kitchen waste bin’s worth) each week.

I bought a Tesla this year, which I charge from my solar panels and I drive it at 2c per mile compared to my old SUV which cost 10c per mile. The Tesla, when charged by solar panels, has a zero carbon footprint. This covers most of our travel but we still have two gasoline powered cars. When they die they will be replaced with EV’s too.

When we buy things we buy almost always local and sustainable. For examples:

  • for clothing we only buy organic, mostly cotton and almost all grown and sewn in the U.S.
  • for food we buy only organic and usually U.S.-grown only though we do make a few exceptions for some rather excellent Swiss cheese and Italian balsamic vinegar. I used to drink mostly French wine but now drink mostly Californian organic wines. We have visited farms that provide many of our favorite foods like tomatoes grown in Vermont, cheese made on Martha’s Vineyard and blueberries grown in New Jersey.
  • construction products (wood, paints, door hardware and light fixtures) are almost all made in the U.S. including many made in New England. We buy a lot of construction products because we are renovating three properties right now. The wood that will become the flooring in the extension that we are currently building on our house will come from trees that fell down on our land. We had these sawn and they are currently drying out.
  • for cars, our Tesla was made in the U.S., the first American-built car we have ever bought, before this we bought only BMW and Mercedes.
  • we buy almost no gasoline or heating oil and we buy zero electricity as everything is powered by U.S. sunshine. 
  • when we do travel by air (none so far this year, but not by choice) we offset the journey with carbon offsets. Any remaining purchases of gasoline, heating oil, electricity are zeroed out each year as Christmas presents from me to the other family members.
  1. If you purchase carbon offsets, how do you decide where to buy the carbon offsets from? What do you look for when purchasing carbon offsets? What are your purchasing criteria?

I am quite skeptical of the claims of many types of carbon offsets especially those that depend on planting trees in the Amazon. Trees grow really well in the Amazon all on their own. Hence it is hard to say that planting trees is removing more carbon dioxide than nature would remove by herself. I buy my carbon offsets from Cool Effect precisely because they are audited to be incremental. Even then I buy only carbon offsets from a project that captures methane that would otherwise leak into the atmosphere from exposed coal seams on the Ute Indian reservation in Utah. This is genuinely incremental and it is supporting U.S. jobs and Native American tribes. 

  1. If you have purchased carbon offsets, what prompted you to purchase them at the specific moments you’ve made the purchase? How did you decide how many offsets to purchase? With what frequency do you purchase offsets? 

I do it annually to offset any secondary carbon footprint we have from travel. I also offset the carbon footprint of any paperback books I sell (the vast majority are sold as e-books) and any T-shirts I sell in the Zero Carbon business. The T-shirts have the lowest carbon footprint possible because they are made from unbleached, un-dyed organic cotton grown and sewn in the USA. However, I still offset the small carbon footprint they still have.