In-between selling off most of what I own and piecing together the next six months of my life, I was reminded of the footprints I’ll leave behind when I leave for someplace new, and the footprints my future children will follow when I’m no longer here to lead them.
In three weeks, Saint Augustine, Florida will live only in the stories I tell my friends back home when they ask me what I’ve been up to for the last 3 years. I plan on heading north in an old camper van till Maine, then east through Canada before dropping down into the western part of the States.
Through out the six month trip I’ll stop and surf along the coast in New England, hike and camp in Canada and explore as much of North America as I can. I’ve criss crossed the states before, squeezing in too much into too little time. I’ve learned to slow down a bit since then though, and I plan on moving down the road only when it seems like the right thing to do.
Planning a trip like this can be as easy as throwing some of the crap you own into a car big enough to hold it or as tough as planning every detail down to what rest stops you plan on stoping at to empty your bladder. I like to think I fall somewhere in-between since I’m less than a month from departure still without the van I need, yet I have the mind to calculate the carbon emissions I’ll accumulate on the roughly 10,000 mile trip once I’m behind the wheel.
I wrestled with this a little, the idea of taking a trip that will add unnecessary carbon to the atmosphere and whether it’s worth it to go. I won’t bore you with my excuses, no matter how well thought out they might be. The truth is I love to travel and feel it’s far better to travel well then not travel at all. I quickly decided that it was definitely worth it. But I do want to do what I can to amend some of the damage I’ll cause.
With a bank account in the negative as far as any creditor is concerned, I don’t have the money to buy a hybrid vehicle. Bio-diesel’s a decent option, but it too has it’s fair sure of problems though, and finding a reliable supply along my route would be a challenge. Honestly, had I though about it sooner I may have very well planned for a bio-diesel trip, but I didn’t. So, traveling well on this trip will mean doing the next best thing, offsetting my carbon emissions.
We all leave an environmental footprint. Some are bigger, some smaller, some are left by the unaware and some by the wareful. Our footprints reflect the paths we’ve followed, or better still the paths we’ve carved by following our dreams, intuition, and own idea of what’s right and just.
Problem is our footprints now have a bigger impact than ever before. It’s a consequence of the direction society is moving in. In our quest for convenience and connection humans have created a world in which our answer to “would you like that in a bag” has a lasting impact that reaches far beyond the grocery store.
You can see this impact everywhere you look; in the plastic water bottles that line our beaches, in our dried up rivers, in the thick carbon filled smog that sits above most major cities, and in a time honored road trip through North America.
For now, there is always going to be unavoidable carbon emissions associated with every trip. To do my part in saving this beautiful planet I love to explore, and to end the guilty feeling loitering in the back of my mind, I’m offsetting my carbon emissions.
Offsetting the carbon emissions for my trip creates funding to support projects such as native forest restoration and renewable energy sources; wind, solar and a growing number of innovative and creative solutions for generating energy sustainably.
To help me calculate my emissions I used Carbonfund.com’s carbon calculator. Carbon Fund acts as a middle man to get your money into the hands of organizations working hard to reduce man made carbon in our environment. Hell, they even let you choose which projects you want your money to go to!
The cost to offset my carbon? $80.00. Not bad for a six month trip in a vehicle that will get 13mpg if I’m lucky. The better your MPG the less your carbon offset will be. At 18mpg your looking at just $50 for what equates to roughly one year of driving. Not too bad.
Offsetting my carbon output won’t erase the carbon I’ll be emitting on my trip, it will only help to offset the damage. So, I thought I would come up with a quick list of ways to eliminate my carbon output all together where I can once I’ve reach a place to call home for a week or two.
- Skateboard or bike instead of driving or taking a cab.
- Eat local food that doesn’t need to be transported hundreds of miles.
- Unplug my laptop once it’s charged.
- Romantic candle lighting in the RV?
- Using my own mug at the coffee shop
- And my favorite…get outside and into the wilderness on human powered adventures!
I’ll be the first to admit that I won’t be calculating every bit of energy I use, my attention span just won’t let me. But with companies like Carbon Fund making it so easy and relatively cheap to offset the carbon emissions for a road trip, or a flight, or heating the house for that matter, I feel it’s my responsibility to leave a lighter footprint for the next generation to follow.
If you’re interested in calculating the carbon footprint for your next trip check out these companies operating in countries around the world.
Photo by Jake VanDonge
Kyle FitzPatrick is a photographer, environmentalist, and editor for Outdoor Minded Mag. In-between time spent behind the lens or in front of a computer you can find him surfing, skating, dabbling and eating burritos.