Carbon Offsets - A Worthy Travel Expense?

Today I'm back with Bootsnall's Indie Travel Challenge. This week's prompt is "Giving Back." 

Share your best ideas for caring for the earth and her people, including things you already do when you travel or at home.

Over the last decade or so, as the Green movement to protect our planet has taken hold, a troubling paradox has been brought to light. Travel, while enriching for the individual, is terrible for Mother Earth. Being a fossil fuel addicted American, it is difficult to come to terms with this reality. 

The most fulfilling aspect of my life is also hurting the world I seek to explore. 
A smoggy Tiananmen Square

I would love to sit here and say that this revelation is going to bring about drastic change to my travels, but I also am realistic. Beyond driving a hybrid, using mass transit or my own two feet, and choosing green friendly accommodations, there is only so much one can do to limit the impact of travel on the earth.

So then what is a traveler to do?

The option of purchasing carbon offsets has become a popular means of balancing ones footprint when traveling, and was how I intended to help the earth when I started this post. After a bit of research however, the concept really doesn't sit well with me. Donating money so that I can feel better about taking a flight reminds me of indulgences as a means for entry to heaven. No thank you.
Cleverly disguised pollution emitter.

It seems I am not alone in this thought, and the internet is rife with companies accused of overstating the results of their programs. After digging a little further, I found a program through The Nature Conservancy which seemed pretty legit, but I still hemmed and hawed for nearly an hour before making the decision to donate a lousy $15.

Do I feel better about my upcoming flight?...No. Will my $15 actually offset the 1 ton of carbon it will cause?...Who knows.
I shudder when I think of Disney's carbon footprint.

The question still remains.

How do I as a traveler account for the impact my wanderings have on the planet? This was the part of the prompt where I was supposed to make some sort of pledge, but I am clearly lost here, so I'm going to turn it around on you.... 

How do you help the earth as it relates to travel? 

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 


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