The Good Route: Covering Olympic Carbon Costs

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By Mary Catherine O'Connor

The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) wants spectators and media coming to the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver to reduce the environmental impact of their visits by purchasing carbon credits based on the air travel and lodging they require, reports Reuters.

The group is impeaching attendees to purchase the credits as part of its efforts to make the Games carbon neutral—it has already secured sponsorship partners to buy carbon credits on behalf of Olympic athletes.

To make it easy for attendees to estimate their impact, VANOC has partnered with Offsetters to produce a calculator that allows people to estimate the carbon emissions that will be released due to their attendance. And, conveniently enough, attendees can remain on the Offsetters site and purchase the carbon credits needed to offset their individual Olympic carbon footprints.

Reuters did a little research into how much it would pay to offset the act of sending a Reuters reporter from London to Vancouver to cover the entire 17-day event. It found that offsetting the nearly 2.5 tons of carbon emissions generated from that trip would cost about $58. Curiously, the news service did not mention whether it would actually be buying offsets for the reports it sends to the Games.

In the wide world, not even five percent of travelers purchase offsets, but VANOC thinks it can get between 30 and 50 percent of 2010 Games visitors to pay up.

The carbon credits purchased will be put toward investments in alternative energy or energy efficiency projects. But the practice of purchasing carbon offsets in a voluntary, unregulated market (as opposed to federally mandated cap-and-trade schemes) does have its detractors, who question the efficacy of the practice.

And at the end of the day, the best way to erase carbon footprints are to not create them in the first place. That said, I doubt many of the people who are lucky enough to be holding a ticket for the 2010 Games would consider staying home and watching the events on television.

What about you? Would you offset your Olympic trip? Or, if you are going to the Games, do you plan on using the carbon calculator to offset your impact? Let us know in the comments section.

Mary Catherine O'Connoris a freelance writer, covering the environment, sustainability andoutdoor recreation. The Good Route, her new blog for Outside Online, isfocused on the places where the active life and sustainability merge.

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