The sustainability mantra of the 21st century ought to be:

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE & OFFSET – in THAT priority order. Instead, we lead a pseudo-sustainable lifestyle of the well to-do. We consider ourselves successful if we can afford to jet set around the world, following the lead of the rich and famous. For more on that read the Guardian article: Hypocrisy of champagne environmentalists is deceitful and distracting.

I don’t know about you, but being prompted to offset my emissions when booking a flight makes me feel uneasy. Is this a trick to lull me into thinking that everything will be alright just as long as I pay a few dollars to ‘offset’ my emissions?  And Why doesn’t the company pay for offsetting the emissions and leave me to do what I can in my personal life (including travel less)? Should we pay offset fees for all consumer goods to make up for the emissions caused while in use: cars, computers and electrical appliances and so on?  How can we offset emissions that are added faster and in higher doses than they are removed? Common sense tells us that it is simply impossible.

Offsetting schemes have been very successful, from both a corporate and consumer perspective and the reason is obvious: They don’t require behavioural change but rather allow business as usual. On a personal level, offsetting permits us, the consumers, to continue what we are doing as long as we  pay a little extra to make up for our sins… On a business level, it has created a new market and possibilities to ‘reduce’ emissions on the balance sheet without actually reducing emissions.

I do appreciate if offsetting deals, by putting a price tag on them, have stopped forests from being logged. If that’s what it takes to protect what we have left, so be it.  I can’t help wonder, however, if creating a market with the same business model that got us into this predicament is the correct answer to our problems. As a matter of fact, I seriously doubt it. Wouldn’t we be better off concentrating on lowering emissions with clean energy and reduced consumption? It seems madness that flights are becoming more and more affordable, that we are putting more and more cars on roads in the face of the detrimental effects these actions have on our planet.

I for one am not buying it! Let’s spend less time with our heads in the clouds and more time focussing on worldchanging action like curbing our excessive consumption habits including travel. Imagine if we took all the energy that is being spent promoting frenzied consumption at Christmas, on Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mothers Day to name just a few … and used it to implement effective emission reduction schemes!

Bring it on!!