To be continued ...

8.29.2013

May 4, 2014—a work in progress. :)

Carbon offsetting & musically mapping the journey

8.13.2013


"Highway Child," Big Bend National Park, Texas.
Road-tripping about North America in search of the continent's most beautiful and pristine locales is a bittersweet venture, for while such a journey is so personally fulfilling, it's nothing but bad news for those unlucky destinations. Even the most careful traveler cannot possibly see, enjoy, and depart a national park or untamed stretch of wilderness without leaving some form of pollution in her wake—not just the usual suspects of smoggy exhaust and forgotten bottles, but noise pollution and light pollution and the touch of a heavy foot against fragile ground.

"If A Tree Falls," Arches National Park, Utah.
During my trek, I did my best to be a well-intentioned traveler, packing out what I packed in and leaving no trace and, well, taking a vehicle with four times the fuel economy of an average car as my companion and chauffeur. Yet despite my best intentions and the relatively clean four-stroke engine of Rousseau, our 15,000 miles rounding the continent did real damage to it: poisoning its forests, its deserts, and its skies with greenhouse gases and several tons of CO2.

For that, I'm sorry. I'd like to make excuses for it, justifications for why it was okay, to offer an explanation that my passion for the environment—and protecting it from harm—was strengthened immeasurably by my two-month sabbatical within it, and thus those 15,000 miles of smoking tailpipe were a small price to pay for a lifelong ally. Or that the average American driver spits nearly three times as much CO2 into the atmosphere every year. And though all that may be true, it's not my decision to make—it's our planet, collectively owned and cared for by each and every one of us, and no individual has the right to selfishly pollute it without giving something back.

Fortunately, there is a way to make things—if not right—at least a little better. Carbon offsetting is the act of reducing one's net carbon footprint by making up for the pollution one produces while driving, flying, or simply living a modern lifestyle by sponsoring projects that further renewable energy, reforestation, energy efficiency, and the like.

Consider offsetting your own adventures—the routine and the
not-so-much—with nothing ore than a few minutes and a few dollars.
I spent a little time researching carbon offset providers—it's an exploding (largely for-profit) industry and there are a lot of shady operations out there—and eventually settled on CarbonFund, a local non-profit with a great track record of successful third-party-verified projects. After calculating my carbon footprint with a very conservative fuel economy of 60 miles per gallon, I computed my overall impact to be 4,855 pounds of carbon dioxide, and found myself both surprised and sickened that during my time on the road, I had been producing my own weight in CO2 every other day.

Between crushing guilt and the sheer economics of offset credits—they're cheap (perhaps too cheap to really change pollution behaviors)—I ended up offsetting the 15,000 miles of the trip, the additional 5,000 miles I'd racked up on the scooter since 2009, and then some, for a total offset of five tons of CO2 in the form of renewable energy projects.

Meanwhile, in the hopes of making it just a touch easier to relive the thrill of my time on the road, I put together a sloppy playlist to musically map my journey. It's a rough mix of 240+ songs describing places (for example, Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited"), pieces alluding to incidents or events (say, "One Day When the Weather is Warm" by Joe Henry), and some instrumentals and tangential tracks setting overall mood ("America the Beautiful," for instance). It still needs some work, sacrifices quality for relevance every now and again, and probably won't make much sense to even the most dedicated of readers, but while it's primarily for my own memory and enjoyment, I figured—like everything else on this blog—I'd make it available in case you want it (and, I suppose, have Spotify). Enjoy.

Still to come: Favorite places, upcoming adventures, and photographs. Lots and lots of photographs. In the meantime, here are a few:

"Descent," Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
"Yosemite Reverie," Yosemite National Park, California.
"Expired Tags," Bodie, California.
"Red Carpet," Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
"Grand Prismatic Spring," Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
"Sandbox," Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
"Weary Traveler," South Dakota.

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