Offsetting Your Energy Usage

Global warming, carbon emissions, and climate change are all buzz words that are repeatedly circulating the media at the moment and the spotlight is turning more and more to politicians and national leaders to address the issues at hand.

New government policies and so called green taxes are being drawn up as we speak to cut carbon emissions in an attempt to slow climate change and the resulting consequences.

However in order to have a dramatic enough effect to slow climate change effectively it shouldn't be the governments that have to shoulder all the responsibility. Governments do have the power to help dramatically by setting policies and taxing the public in order to start positive trends in the way energy is used and so blatantly taken for granted; but the average citizen should perhaps take some of the blame and make more of an effort to do their bit.

One of the latest solutions to help in this effort is a concept known as “Energy Offsetting” or “Carbon Offsetting”. The concept basically involves doing something either physically to counteract your energy usage or paying money into industries that will do this for you, such as sustainable energy projects. In other words Offsetting means paying someone to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by the same amount that your activities add.

Carbon offsetting is becoming more widespread and is now available for everybody as an easy and cheap way to help minimise the impact of your carbon emissions on the environment. It is not a solution that can instantly remedy the situation but if you are conscious enough about your personal impact then it gives you a chance to take steps to at least minimise it, of course this is in addition to changes in your life style to minimise your energy usage in the first place.

Websites like and Carbon Neutral provide an easy service that allows you to offset your carbon emissions. On these web sites you simply have to enter some information about your energy usage such as the cost of your annual gas, and electricity bills, how much petrol/diesel you use in your car, and how many plane journeys you take. From this information the websites can calculate your personal annual carbon emissions and the cost of offsetting them. The money is then passed on to fund projects that reduce emissions on your behalf such as renewable energy projects, increasing energy efficiency, and forest restoration.

Some examples of the cost of offsetting:

  • £5 can off set a return flight from Edinburgh to Southampton which produces about 0.12 tonnes of CO2.
  • £22 can offset driving 10,000 miles in a typical petrol car which produces around 3 tonnes of CO2.
  • £8 can offset an annual electricity bill of £200 which produces around a tonne of CO2.
  • £12 can offset an annual gas bill of £200 which produces around 1.6 tonnes of CO2.

For most people the cost of offsetting their total annual carbon footprint will be under £50; this includes car travel, household energy usage and one short haul return flight. Of course the cost of offsetting can be reduced by curbing the amount of energy you use in the first place.

Offsetting the cost of long haul flights is by far the most expensive simply because of the masses of carbon used in each flight. This is an alarming indicator of the massive impact that the air travel industry is having on our planet. To give you an idea of the scale of this impact a long haul flight from Heathrow costs £17 to offset and produces over 2 tonnes of CO2, and that just for one person. Now imagine how many thousands of long haul flights take place every week.

Recent studies have shown that if everyone took just one long haul flight or 2 short haul flights annually the problem would be dramatically reduced.

The government announced earlier this year that they now have their own Carbon Offsetting Fund in order to neutralise the foot print of the government's own carbon emissions arising from official and Ministerial air travel and that energy neutral vehicles and video conferencing will be used as an alternative to travel where ever possible.

The years G8 summit (a meeting of leaders to discuss the issues of climate change) was apparently a carbon neutral event, with all it s associated carbon emissions being offset. According to the BBC “the total carbon dioxide emissions associated with the G8 presidency is equivalent to the electricity and gas used in 800 average homes over a year”.

Bands such as Coldplay and Pink Floyd have released carbon neutral albums this year, apparently planting enough trees to offset the carbon emissions created by the production of their CDs.

Of course offsetting your energy should be done in addition to decreasing your energy usage in general, and not as a substitute. Things like turning off devices at the mains instead of leaving them on standby, washing your clothes at lower temperatures, not boiling a full kettle of water every time, and turning your heating down and wearing a nice woolly jumper instead are all things we can do to help… and why not? As they will actually save you money as well!

Collectively we all have the power to save our planet but we must act now before it is too late, are you doing you're bit?

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