Graphic Element, Right Gutter

  Clean Up Your Own Mess

The truly meaningful political triumphs don't change the law--they change the culture. In the 1960s, a civil rights law was required to enforce an African American's right to frequent a Southern hotel or restaurant. As important and necessary as this was, it pales in comparison to the cultural change that it inspired. In a very different realm, the environmental movement can make a similar claim: the nearly universal support for recycling.

Twenty years ago there were almost no curbside recycling programs. Since that time, the various state "Bottle" bills as well as government laws facilitating curbside recycling have led to nearly 95 percent of Americans now participating in a recycling program, and 28 percent of all recyclable waste was, in fact, recycled last year.

When Americans realized that recycling a ton of newsprint saved 17 trees, we blinked. When we learned that a glass bottle never decomposes in nature - ever - we knew we should stop throwing them into landfills. It wasn't until we figured out how convenient recycling could, however, that it became widespread.

Global warming is also susceptible to individual actions, but consumers are in a quandary--they don't have the information on which to base new and better actions. Government and business are not informing consumers about the environmental impact of their activities when it comes to global warming. Did you know that every time you take a domestic air flight, you are putting an average of nearly one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? (Carbon dioxide is the key greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.) When we drive our cars, we emit an average of 20 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon of gas burned.

Better World can calculate the effect of virtually any activity, from a hotel stay to a ski trip. We hope that you use these figures to contribute to global warming as little as is practical. It's hard to avoid creating greenhouse gas (primarily by using power or traveling) just like it isn't easy to avoid creating trash. It requires changes in behavior as well as technology. As we know, people can change their behavior in regard to their use of fossil fuels, but we all need to do things, including heat our homes and drive our cars that contribute to the problem. Better World has developed a way that the concept of remediation can be applied here.

We now calculate the amount of carbon dioxide generated when you fly--and invest in energy projects that lower CO2 emissions by an equal amount. There are several kinds of energy projects that can be supported to offset these amounts. At Better World, we are investing in several projects in the Portland schools: to replace oil burners with natural gas burners, for example. Better World will be helping offset auto emissions by expanding our Travel Cool program to auto insurance.

This is the essence of Better World's TravelCool! program. It is a way to clean up your own mess, to take responsibility for the CO2 resulting from your air travel, without reducing your mobility or diminishing your quality of life.

Our TravelCool! Program is one effort to help you fight global warming. Our efforts are mirrored by several other companies experimenting with this concept and figuring out how to offset at least a small part of their greenhouse gas emissions. But there won't be copies on a large scale until consumers insist upon it. Oil companies, utilities, auto companies, and airlines need to take the steps to educate their customers on the environmental impact of their activities and provide simple, convenient ways to remedy them.

Similarly, consumers must catch the fever, uh, I mean catch the chill: Carbon Offsetting,/Climate Neutrality should become the Recycling of the 21st Century. If Carbon Offsetting became as successful as recycling, hundreds of billions of tons of greenhouse gas would be remediated. In fact, it should become more widespread then garbage recycling, because our refuse systems have the potential to handle only so much recycled trash, but the more Carbon Offsetting the better.

Just like the civil rights laws and the Bottle bill, government action is probably required. But it's the individual actions of each of us; it's the amount of Carbon Offsetting that we do that will help determine whether Global Warming is reversed. And when this individual action is sufficiently popular, culture will trump the legal system again.

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