Carbon Offsets II

Das Boot (1981)

The company for which I work is located in an otherwise normal seeming building in downtown Washington, D.C., but it’s apparently up-to-code circa 1970s exterior belies a decrepit, crumbling cinder block. The HVAC has gone out somewhere between five and ten times this year. Most immediately, the air conditioning has been out for the last two days — it’s nominally back on today but they must be finessing it and we are loosing ground against the in-pouring solar radiation. The building is a greenhouse. Despite its being in the 90s, at least outside there’s a slight breeze. Inside it’s just dead, sweltering air. I’m in a cube near the window — a window that like in Office Space is mostly obscured by my cubical wall — so it’s particularly hot in my area. It’s like Das Boot in here: we’re dead in the water, stripped to our bare torsos, streaked in diesel fuel and struggling to work in the thinning, stagnant air.

Central HVAC is supposed to be this great civil engineering panacea, but despite decades of experience, I have yet to work in a place where the HVAC system operated well. As a result, employees all take illicit measures. At one point last winter the building management felt the need to reminded the company that the terms of the lease prevented employees from possessing individual space heaters. The accounting / admin. manager sent one of his minions around the office with a giant box to collect up all the offending heaters. But then, just a few weeks later the heat in the building conked out. It was only a matter of time before employees were at the accounting manager’s office door militating for their space heaters back.

So as long as I’m offering my own self up for sale as a carbon offset, I should add to the menu of offsets on offer, that if you are galloping through energy keeping your environs a comfortable, neutral temperature, kick a few bucks my way and I will sit around like our ancestors of generations, exposed to temperatures unregulated by the products of human ingenuity.

Carbon Offsets

Ezra Klein — a meat eater and a foodie, mind you — has had a lot to say about meat consumption as of late. Back in May he went so far as to say, “If I had more will power I’d be a vegetarian” (“View From a Herbivore,” TAPPED, The American Prospect, 8 May 2008). Today (“Why It’s Worth Talking About Meat,” ibid., 21 July 2008) he links to The PB&J Campaign that has the following grouping of factoids:

Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions.

Those 2.5 pounds of emissions at lunch are about forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you’d save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan.

Hey, that’s pretty cool! Forget about planting a tree: I think I’m going to start positioning myself as a carbon offset! Wanna eat a Big Mack but feel kinda bad about it? Give me five dollars — PayPal button up in the corner — and count on me eating a block of tofu or an undressed salad to make up for your extra 2.5 pounds of carbon. And if you commuted to work and know you’re part of the problem, send ten and rest assured that I rode my bike to work in your stead. But if you play too many video games, I’m not tuning off my computer for you at any pricelevel.

On a related note I have been chuckling to myself and brandishing Will Wilkinson’s comment on why he bikes to work for some days now (“Bikes vs. Cars,” The Fly Bottle, 9 July 2008):

I honestly don’t give a fig about my carbon footprint (and anyway, since I’m not a breeder, I really should get carbon carte blanche).

So while I’m at it, if you have made more of us miserable ecosystem-trammelers and know it was just a guilty pleasure (what, a mirror not good enough for you?), then send money and I will refrain from procreative sex as a carbon offset for your brood.