Alaskans Know Climate Change (AKCC) recently purchased certified* carbon offsets for the Kachemak Bay Conservation Center in Homer, Alaska. This is a simple and inexpensive market solution to address the contribution the building and its users made, over the course of one year, through fuel and electricity consumption, to global warming.
The procedure was simple. AKCC took one year’s worth of electric utility receipts and added up the total Kilowatt-hours (kWh). Over the last year, this building used 16,631 kWh’s worth of electricity. We then went to the EPA’s website, used their carbon calculator and punched this number in to find out the greenhouse gas equivalency. It turned out to be 11.8 metric tons.
Next, we calculated the gallons of heating fuel and found that the building had consumed 1,021 gallons. We again entered this information into the EPA’s carbon calculator to get the greenhouse gas equivalency, which was 9.1 metric tons.
Then we then added these two numbers together. The building, we discovered, is on the hook for 20.1 metric tons of greenhouse gasses, for one year.
Nothing can be done to reduce this carbon footprint from last year. But, we can make sure that that amount does not enter into the atmosphere elsewhere by purchasing carbon offsets.
There are many certified carbon offset brokers. Each broker offers a variety of projects for individuals, nonprofits, business, churches or others, who are concerned about addressing their contribution to global warming, to purchase.
We chose to offset our carbon footprint with the broker Cool Effect and supported a project that captures fugitive methane and uses it to produce energy. This is located on the Southern Ute Tribe’s land. The Tribe is not profiting from this project, but continues to manage it because it supports their values. Over 60,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions are eliminated every year by this project. Without voluntary support, they would have no way to finance this methane capture and that potent greenhouse gas would continue to escape into the atmosphere.
There is tremendous value in supporting developments like this and they are remarkably inexpensive. The venture we supported is the most expensive one that Cool Effect offers - $13 a metric ton. The cost to offset the Kachemak Bay Conservation Center’s carbon footprint for one year was $275.
The goal, however, is to find ways to make reductions. From now on, we will do this type of audit every year. We will strive to find ways to reduce the building's footprint. It is unlikely that we can convert the building to carbon neutral in 1 or even 5 years but this first step helps us set goals. We want to be paying less and less every year for carbon offsets by improving our energy consumption, identifying and replacing appliances with more efficient ones, begin using renewable energy, and change how the building is heated, for example.
The Kachemak Bay Conservation Center is arguably one of the most well used and treasured buildings in Homer, Alaska. Well over a dozen nonprofit and adhoc groups use the building to conduct meetings. It is our hope that this building can lead by example regarding greenhouse gas accountability.
Last fall, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their latest report. Not long after, the Federal Government released the National Climate Assessment, which was followed by the 'Economic Effects of Climate Change in Alaska' report by ISER. All of these publications point to the same horrible future that awaits us—especially our children—if we don’t get serious about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite all the education about the existential crisis we face, 2018 set a new all-time record. Last year, our civilization produced over 40 billion tons of greenhouse gasses. This is suicidal behavior.
Obviously, what this beloved little building produces is an infinitesimal drop in the bucket, but if others in Homer, and beyond, begin taking this step it will start to make a difference. Buying carbon offsets is a remarkably inexpensive way to address the harmful greenhouse gasses that have already been emitted. For very little money, anyone can feel good in knowing that they are supporting projects that are keeping greenhouse gasses out of the system. But, remember, buying carbon offsets is just one step in the process. The ultimate goal is to reduce dependance on fossil fuels.
Thank you to everyone who attended this presentation and to all of you out there who are learning how to do your part. Our children and their children won’t forget it.
Watch this short video about the four levels of climate action. We are often led to believe that we have two options to address the climate crisis: personal reductions or governmental policy. This video reminds us that there are two other levels, which are the levels we are most likely to see real and meaningful results from.
* Carbon offsets must meet these Essential Criteria:
All certified carbon offset projects are held to a uniform set of benchmarks to maintain a consistently high level of quality.
The quantified greenhouse gas or carbon reductions must represent actual emission reductions. These reductions are based on approved methodologies or protocols which require rigorous monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of the project’s activities.
Additionality requires the carbon emission reductions to be above and beyond business as usual. This means reductions are additional if they would not have occurred in the absence of the project. Importantly, additionality should be determined by an independent third-party, a requirement for internationally accepted standards.
Permanence is commonly referred to as the useful life of a project in reducing carbon emissions. A project should be independently certified to a standard to ensure permanence and other criteria for real carbon reductions are met.
The greenhouse gas or carbon reductions must result from projects whose performance can be readily and accurately quantified, monitored and verified by independent, third-party auditors.
Leakage is the positive or negative impacts of a project on the surrounding area outside the project’s boundary.