Good question. Whenever I get an energy or carbon question, I summarily retort - “I’m not into energy, I’m into adaptation.” And provide a link that explains the difference between mitigation (finding a cure) and adaptation (treating symptoms).
But, I travel a ton. In the past two years alone I’ve been to Iceland, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, London, Hungary, Vienna, Belgium (by accident!), and at least 10 US states. There were times I regularly flew from Massachusetts to DC for a business lunch and flew back in time for dinner.
So, despite the fact that I don’t do carbon, you’ve forced me to admit I have a huge carbon footprint. <Sighhh>
Well, I further confess I don’t offset my travel. Personally, I live simply. I buy (and sell) used things, give to good charities (like the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Innocence Project), buy from local farmers, and just do the right things the best I can. I use google hangout and skype a lot, as well as attend webinars instead of flying to conferences.
So, with that, I’d point you to two options. The first is to consider trading carbon on the global market. You might be able to trade in California and possibly under RGGI, as well. I am not sure the cost to access these boards from a consumer perspective, though. I think those two US markets require you to be incorporated. You’ll have to research it yourself, and I’m sure you can call them.
To trade on the global market you can use a simple investment/broker account like Morgan Stanley or CarbonTradexchange, etc. Again, research to see if they offer individuals access.
The superior NYTimes writer, Elisabeth Rosenthal, wrote an excellent piece warning people of carbon offset scams. If you get a chance, pay close attention to her article: “Paying More for Emissions Eases Guilt, not Emissions.” She also wrote a piece on airline travel a few weeks ago, aptly titled, “Your Biggest Carbon Sin - Air Travel,” which I found completely unhelpful but maybe you’ll glean something from it.
Second (I’ll admit this is weak), plant trees with friends. It’s fun, and very cool to see them grow over the years. But honestly, it does next to zero to cover your travel. Billions of trees are cut every year to help us wipe our counters, butts, and jamb printers. So, planting a tree to offset carbon is Sisyphean balderfollydash. But it sure is fun to do!
At the end of the day, if you choose to fly over taking a train, you have to come to terms with the fact that you are contributing (mini-micro-minutely, let’s get real here) to climate change.
That’s all I got!