A simple step to a global solution

Imagine having the weight of the world on your shoulders – or more specifically, the weight of your contribution to the world’s global warming problem on your shoulders. That equates to about 10,200 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted a year for a standard-size car, and 21,300 pounds for the average apartment in Tampa.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget that flight to Michigan to see Grandma this Christmas – that adds another 891 pounds. That’s more than 32,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution annually.

Now imagine a company that would like to cancel out those yearly emissions by funding clean energy projects to reduce the equivalent of your CO2 emissions. One such company, TerraPass, has made it their goal to do just that.

What is TerraPass?

TerraPass offers membership-style passes to neutralize your impact on the climate, in effect reducing global warming. Since 2004, TerraPass has eradicated more than 150 million pounds of CO2 emissions.

“Emissions might not seem like a big deal or affect your life directly, which is why everyone is so skeptical about global warming – it is not affecting their daily life right now and probably won’t,” said environmental science and policy major Barry Parks. “Global warming is an extremely slow process that takes millions of years to occur. Humans are impacting this current global warming period drastically, and although we may not ‘see’ a difference in our lifetime, something should be done in order to preserve the environment for future generations.”

TerraPass is working to become that ‘something.’

All of the above figures were determined by using various emissions calculators on the TerraPass Web site,

TerraPass.com. The car emissions calculator, for example, asks for the year, make and model of your car, as well as your average yearly mileage. From there, it configures the amount of emissions your car produces and places the vehicle in one of four categories: hybrid, efficient, standard and utility/performance, depending on how much CO2 your car emits.

Each category offers a TerraPass at a different price, ranging from $29.95 for a hybrid TerraPass to $79.95 for a utility/performance pass. Basically, the lower your fuel economy is, the greater the amount of CO2 emitted, which calls for a more expensive pass to fund the extra waste.

Similarly, the flight and home calculators take into account miles flown and a person’s gas/electric bill, respectively, to determine personalized amounts of CO2 pollution. These also are separated into levels of waste with varying price tags attached.

How could I afford a TerraPass on a college student’s budget?

Through its yearly passes, TerraPass makes emission reduction seem more affordable.

“Politicians and business leaders have been telling us for the last 20 years that there’s this huge painful cost associated with reducing carbon,” Ned Ford, Sierra Club member, told Wired magazine. “If you think about your own personal impact on CO2, and you find out you can offset it for a reasonable amount of money, it makes you think differently about the problem.”

For the average Tampa household mentioned above, with an electricity bill of about $155 and a $28 gas bill, the cost of a TerraPass to combat its 21,339 pounds of carbon dioxide is $109.78.

If you live in an apartment with three other people, the split cost of the pass is $27.45 – about eight cents a day. That’s the equivalent of sending one fewer text message a day. In fact, cutting out two tall Starbucks frappuccinos from your diet each month for a year would pay for more than two years of your share of the TerraPass.

How does it work?

Purchasing a TerraPass doesn’t modify your home or vehicle in any way – it’s more like buying a membership for an organization that agrees to fund clean energy projects to balance out your annual CO2 emissions. Each purchase comes with some sort of membership kit, varying from compact fluorescent light bulbs and recycled plastic bag dispensers for home memberships, to bumper stickers and window decals for a car membership.

The tangible rewards may seem insignificant, but that’s because the company guarantees to use the bulk of the money to offset the buyer’s average annual CO2 pollution. One of the major projects includes expanding wind farms, such as the Garwin McNeilus wind farm in Minnesota, which supplies electricity to the state and its surrounding areas, like North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Nebraska.

Without this contribution, these places would use fossil fuels to create energy, increasing the overall amount of emissions expended into the air.

How does TerraPass benefit me?

According to the California-based company, it doesn’t matter if a member in Florida buys a pass that funds a wind-farming project halfway across the country, because global warming doesn’t just affect one region of the world.

“Carbon dioxide reductions in one part of the world are equivalent to carbon dioxide reductions in any part of the world, so you can be confident that your TerraPass purchase is having a local benefit,” the TerraPass Web site states.

Despite this assurance, some would prefer to become environmentally “greener” by spending money on ways to reduce their personal consumption than fund outside projects.

“I would rather buy (appliances to create) a more energy-efficient house than spend the money on a TerraPass,” said Carla Vila, international business major.

What else can I do about global warming?

TerraPass also offers ways to reduce your energy use, which not only reduces CO2 emissions that result in global warming, but can also reduce energy bills, saving you money in the process. If you agree to follow their recommendations, they’ll also reduce the cost of your TerraPass.

For the average Tampa household example, doing things such as unplugging cell phone and other chargers while not in use, turning off lights, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs and ditching that second refrigerator can save $498 in energy bills, according to TerraPass.com. This also reduces the amount of CO2 emissions by 3,195 pounds.

As part of MTV’s “Break the Addiction” campaign, think.mtv.com has a 12-step program to help reduce one’s overall impact on the environment, including carbon emissions. This includes everything from little tips like using a fan over air conditioning and car pooling, to how to join the “Campus Climate Challenge,” which forms student organizations that take measures to reduce pollution within their schools. Rollins, FIU, UCF and the University of Miami all have groups registered.

Regardless of which organization a person chooses to help, Parks feels it’s necessary to get involved with the issue of global warming.

“This is bigger and more important than any war. This is messing with nature – and man has never beat nature,” he said. “Little things can greatly reduce the impact of global warming, and that’s why I hope it will soon become a major issue in the media, politics, etc. We need to get some focus on it if we intend to do anything about it.”