Have you noticed the small donations that online travel or other booking companies request you to make while making your final payment? The message mostly reads – reduce your carbon footprint by donating Rs. 5 and next to it would be a small plant icon. This is an example of offsetting. 

When you counterbalance an act, which impacts the environment in any way, with actions that ‘make up’ for that act. The most commonly used impact assessment is measured in terms of carbon footprint — each of our actions creates a carbon footprint on this planet. Whatever we buy is created from resources from the planet and the extraction or development process creates carbon emissions. Similarly, whatever we do, however, we travel, wherever we live there is always a continuous give and take happening between us, the, community and the economy. But the start and finish of all these pursuits is the environment – the soil, water, and air. 

When we start looking at ways to either reduce the impact we could potentially have or have already had by taking alternative action or solutions is what helps offset our impact. 

Here are a few ways to offset your carbon footprint:

  1. Using a bicycle or walking to travel around your community area – to work or for groceries etc. This to offset the carbon footprint you maybe generating by buying that loaf of bread you so love!
  2. Planting trees around your home and community. This to offset the emissions your two or four-wheeler emits when you travel to or back from work. 
  3. Making a home which uses natural materials and designs which self-regulate temperatures without the need for fancy air conditioners or fans. This to offset the energy you may be using to operate your everyday electrical items like the dishwasher, food processor, washing machine etc. These consumables consume energy, generate heat and also have a huge carbon footprint because of the way the electricity is generated for our use. 
  4. Harvesting rainwater and using grey water systems to offset the impact from using up natural water resources for drinking or other everyday usage.
  5. Composting or using other soil rejuvenation practices to offset the impact of overuse of soil for your garden or farm for your purposes.
  6. Using renewable energy like solar or wind to run part of your work or home operations.
Photo by Tiffany Nutt on Unsplash

There is also the concept of being carbon neutral. This is when you solely practice the 3 of the 5Rs – Refuse, reuse and recycle materials for personal. Also, combine this with higher tree cover, effective soil and water rejuvenation, and growing your own food. 

So, the idea essentially is to not just take but to give before we take or identify ways to give back to the environment and ecosystems. However, we cannot offset our way to ecological balance. Just like we have self-defined rules to create our own versions of a successful life, a successful sustainable life too needs certain rules, rules that we define for ourselves and are uncompromising. That is when our next generations stand a chance to experience environments that are healthy and liveable.

On a philosophical note… 

It’s like people (more specifically the ones closest to us) forgetting anniversaries and birthdays and then making up for them with gifts. Not realizing that the damage is already done and that we shall never forget these instances of forgetfulness.

Nature too doesn’t forget and because there is no ‘away’. It keeps accumulating whatever our karma generates and gives everything back to us – we are all a part of the circle and everything is cyclical. 

In all religions of the world, there is a lot of emphasis on giving to others than taking and on ‘doing good deeds’. It i to negate any sins one may have done while living their lives. 

I guess ‘offset’ in a way is an extension of that philosophy. But the point is, why not ‘do good deeds’ from the start… wouldn’t that we a more efficient way of living for all?

How are you offsetting your impact?

Love and grace.

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