A carbon offset is a payment you can make to a third party to remove or offset your own carbon emissions from the atmosphere. If you wanted to offset the emissions associated with flying from Los Angeles to Atlanta then you could pay someone to plant trees that would absorb (over a few years) your one ton of emissions. This would make your flight carbon-neutral. However, not all carbon offsets are equally effective in reducing emissions. What would happen if the trees you had planted for your flight offset were to burn down? Yep, all your carbon goes back into the atmosphere. Critics of carbon offsets not only challenge the validity of certain types of programs, but they also suggest the “pay to pollute” mentality that carbon offsets may encourage is counterproductive to stimulating real change. While this may be true in some cases, well-designed carbon-offset projects, when managed in an honest and open manner, can promote practices such as renewable energy or enhanced carbon uptake that really do reduce emissions.
While recognizing the debate on carbon offsets, we have chosen to use them for the energy associated with publishing this book only after as many steps as possible were already taken to reduce emissions.