A lot of the tips on this web site focus on saving energy. But why is that important? It's great to lower your energy bills and save money, but what's the bigger picture?
Almost all of the energy we get today comes from fossil fuels, whether it's the gasoline used to move our cars or the coal used to fire our power plants. Burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.
If you add up all of the carbon dioxide that you're responsible for creating through your energy use, you end up with a number called your “carbon footprint”. Think of it as your personal contribution to climate change.
The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is by reducing your use of fossil fuels. Driving an alternative-fuel vehicle; insulating your home; switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs; all of these things make a big impact.
But it's tough to lower your carbon footprint all the way to zero. That's where carbon offsets can help. Carbon offsets are a way of balancing out your carbon footprint by funding reductions in carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere. For example, by putting money toward a wind farm or "cow power" methane digester, you can sponsor an actual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.