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Reflections: Carbon offsets

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Preserving our forests is one of the most important things we can do for the planet, as the plants that make up the forest capture carbon from the atmosphere. PHOTO COURTESY OF UNSPLASH.COM

By Kathy Bouchard EBS CONTRIBUTOR

It was one of those cool and quiet days—no wind, and the pewter sky seemed particularly close. My high elevation had been reached, and the return downhill was letting me catch my breath. Various Douglas firs stand sentinel along this road, always seeming to be companionable. I was noticing all the trees around me because I was listening to a story about them.

The voice in my ear, from “The Overstory,” Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel, was telling about how scientists had sequenced the DNA of the Douglas fir. I looked around more attentively. The botanist character announced that the Douglas fir shares 24 percent of its DNA with humans, and that the two species shared a common ancestor 1.4 billion years ago. Wow! Cousins!

We are being told these days that preserving our forests is one of the most essential things we can do for the planet. In fact, more carbon consuming plants of many types must not only be preserved but restored to former or degraded habitats and expanded almost wherever possible. This includes the kelp forests off the Pacific shores, tall grass prairies where rain is scarce, mangrove tangles along the tropic shores and hardwood forests in our urban environments. These trees capture carbon, reduce temperatures, create rain, fertilize soils and provide homes for creatures of innumerable kinds.

You can support these activities and offset some of your carbon footprint by donating to organizations designed exactly for the purposes of conservation and sustainability. These organizations use your donations to fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, allowing you to counteract a portion of your carbon footprint.

Two weeks ago, I googled “carbon offset,” tabulated my miles flown in the past year and selected an organization certified by long-standing watchdogs like The Gold Standard or Green-e. With a little research you can zero-in on a plant or region that interests you. The projects are usually in developing countries and are designed to reduce future emissions, according to one website.

I chose one with multiple programs around the globe, because variety is fun. This was the first time for me to buy carbon offsets, though driving a hybrid vehicle, buying energy saving lightbulbs and supporting organizations that fight pollution are still ongoing concerns. Listed below are a few suggested websites where you can take a closer look at carbon offsets:

  • CoolEffect.org
  • Terrapass.com
  • Carbonfund.org

Kathy Bouchard is a member of the Rotary Club of Big Sky’s Sustainability Committee. She has been a Montana resident for 20 years and is inspired to work for sustainability on behalf of her grandchildren.

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