Until recently, reducing your individual impact on the environment has often been an imprecise task at best.
You could use low-energy light bulbs and make sure that your houselights were off before you left. You could carpool or take the bus to work. You could recycle.
Another option would be to do something more substantive, like forking over extra cash for a hybrid vehicle, or spending $50,000 to install electricity-generating solar panels on your roof. Unfortunately, the size of these investments tend to prohibit all but a lucky few individuals from utilizing these options.
But there is something else that can be done in order to make a difference -- use tools that accurately measure and then provide a chance to counteract the impact of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.
One such tool is DrivingGreen.com, a Web site that allows users to calculate an approximate value of carbon emissions that they produce from driving a car, traveling by plane or hosting an event. The site then lets users make a payment to offset those emissions. The money goes to pay for one of a number of carbon-reducing projects that DrivingGreen.com has agreed to help fund.Carbon-offset programs have also recently been adopted by travel sites Travelocity and Expedia(EXPE).
Since kicking off its operations in 2006, DrivingGreen says it has offset more than 27.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide. By taking part, a consumer can reduce the net impact of driving a car or taking a flight to zero emissions.
For instance, according to DrivingGreen, a 1999 Chrysler Sebring driven 18,000 miles a year produces 15,400 pounds of greenhouse gases annually. To "undo" those emissions would cost $56.
Because carbon-offset programs are voluntary in the U.S., participants in programs like DrivingGreen tend to do so because they are personally committed to reducing their emissions footprint or because of the public relations benefits that such participation might bring, according to Dan Linsky, program director for DrivingGreen.com.