What goes around comes around…

I have been working in the private sector doing Internet-related consulting for a few years now, but I have been interested in sustainability and energy efficiency since college.  So, I finally decided to do something about it and have gotten accepted to an environmental master’s program (woohoo!).  But, I’ve also decided to start a blog about developments in the fields of energy efficiency, sustainable energy, and climate change that I find interesting.  Despite the fact that there are still many people who doubt that Earth’s climate is changing quite noticeably, the issue of “going green” is still on the minds of global political leaders, and developments are being made in green technology and green business initiatives at an impressive rate.

Earlier this month, I was reading an article about forest carbon offsets.  Basically, companies pay landowners to plant and/or maintain forests and maximize the carbon-absorbing properties of these trees in order to offset any carbon emissions made by said company’s usage of fossil fuels.  Apparently, one organization that takes advantage of these forest carbons offsets is a travel company that regularly sails down to Central America (international travel is a huge contributor to carbon emissions).  Dell, Inc. is funding a similar project through Conservation International; the company is funding the protection of 600,000 acres of forest in Madagascar, which keeps 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year!  GOOD calls this “carbon karma.”

Carbon karma – I like that.  We’ve all heard that “what goes around come around,” a saying that, while clichéd, certainly holds true when it comes to carbon emissions.  We put a heck of a lot of carbon out into the atmosphere, but do we have a plan for when all of that carbon comes back around?  It turns out that a carbon dioxide molecule spends a much greater amount of time in the atmosphere – about 5 years as opposed to 7 days – than a water molecule, which means that it is far more difficult to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it was to emit it in the first place (citation: Professor Richard Wolfson in his course “Earth’s Changing Climate”).

But, carbon exchanges between the air and water, living things, or soil constitute the most rapid part of the carbon cycle (again, thanks to Prof. Wolfson).  Thus, planting trees that will absorb carbon should theoretically help to offset some of the carbon being placed in the atmosphere.  We may have a long way to go, but a big shout out goes to those companies who are thinking ahead and who are willing to take responsibility for their part in the global carbon economy.

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