Painfully aware that my recent trip to Vienna was not exactly a case of practicing what GBN has been preaching when it comes to cutting down on corporate travel I decided last week that I would pay to offset the carbon emissions generated by the two and a quarter hour flight.
I opted for the company ClimateCare, which I had heard from several sources has proved particularly effective at moving away from controversial re-forestry investments towards more beneficial energy efficiency and renewables programmes.
Upon visiting the site I also found ClimateCare's credentials had been bolstered still further by a recent independent consumer report from the Clean Air – Cool Planet not-for-profit lobby group. The study, which looked at 30 offset providers, branded ClimateCare one of the most impressive operators, ranking it first in four of the seven assessment criteria.
Convinced that despite some legitimate concerns about offsetting this was a purchase worth making I put my flight details into the online calculator and started wondering how big the price tag would have to be to ensure my financial concerns outweighed my ethical ones - I still had Christmas presents to buy after all.
A few seconds later I was pleasantly surprised to be told that offsetting the 0.29 tonnes of carbon produced flying to and from Vienna would cost me a grand total of £2.19 - I could offset the environmental impact of the flight for less than the price of a pint.
Even accounting for the fact that ClimateCare insists on a minimum offset order value of £5 (it's to do with the cost of processing the credit card apparently) it still cost me about half what I expected and amounted to a fraction of the cost of the flight.
A quick tour of the site proves that it is not just offsetting flights that is far cheaper than I thought. Offsetting 4,000 miles of driving an average car costs just £10, the average UK home can be offset for £40, while you can offset the 12 tonnes of CO2 that represents each individuals' portion of UK carbon emissions for £90.
My surprise at these offset bargains is not uncommon, according to Michael Buick of ClimateCare. "A lot of people think it is quite cheap," he said. "It may get more expensive as demand rises, but the fact is that a little bit of money goes a long way on renewable and more energy efficient technologies."
Buick pointed to ClimateCare projects such as the initiative to introduce more energy efficient wood burning stoves to developing world communities that cost just £50 each, last over five years and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 1.5 tonnes a year.
"The Stern Review clarifies that it is far cheaper to reduce carbon emissions now than tackle the problem later," Buick argued. "There are still a lot of low hanging fruits, where relatively small investments have big impacts."
Promoting this message has been hamstrung by the fact that carbon offset firms cannot widely advertise the low cost of their products for fear of customer complaints that their money should go on projects, not marketing. But word of mouth and press coverage is gradually challenging the widely held perception that offsets are an expensive frippery, according to Buick.
Of course the surprisingly low cost of carbon offsets is not enough to win everybody round to the idea. Many firms will maintain that even if offsets would represent a fraction of their overall costs the total quickly tots up, while critics of the whole concept claim - with some validity - that offsets could convince people that they no longer need to reduce overall emissions.
However, advocates of the concept insist offsetting is not only cheaper than many people believe but can also deliver plenty of benefits in terms of limiting your environmental impact and improving firms' brand value and staff morale.
As a result any business that initially dismissed the idea of offsetting on the assumption that it would prove financially unviable should consider properly investigating exactly how much it would cost them - they might just be pleasantly surprised.
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