“I’ll be home for Christmas…if I only in my dreams,” croons Bing Crosby on this classic holiday song staple.For many of us getting home for the holidays may be more of nightmare than a dream,  often times including headache-inducing travel.  Whether you take to the sky, the rails or the highway to get to your loved ones, there is no denying that the holiday season can send the ‘ol carbon footprint soaring higher than Santa Clause on Christmas Eve.

While one could make the environmentally friendly choice of forgoing the trip home altogether, that would likely result in enduring an avalanche of guilt brought on by e-mails and phone calls from a disappointed mom for weeks and months to come.  Trust me, “I am worried about my carbon emissions” is not an adequate excuse for skipping out on the holiday festivities unless your Dad happens to be Captain Planet.

So, you suck it up, and travel the hours and miles that it will take to make your family happy, and if you are lucky, you are glad to do so. So what can one do to assuage the gnawing green guilt over the amount of fossil fuels your holiday trek will release into the environment?

One option to easing this guilty conscious is purchasing a Carbon Offset, which is a financial instrument aimed at a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In simpler terms,  you  give money towards projects whose aim is to reduce Green House Emissions. At first glance this practice appears to be the perfect solution to the sometimes unavoidable toll our day-to-day actions, such as that cross-country flight home for the holidays, take on the environment.

Critics and cynics alike, however, are quick to point out the flaws to this seemingly positive system. While regulations for this field do exist, some say they are not strenuous enough, allowing certain greedy individuals the opportunity to scam money off well-meaning environmentally minded individuals. It is also argued that a program that allows people to feel better about their less-than environmentally friendly habits only encourages people to continue to make poor choices.

It seems clear that this industry, like many, is far from perfect.  And although it is not without its faults, one could argue that any money put towards a thoroughly investigated Carbon Offset is money well spent.  As long as you, as with any purchase, know who you are buying from- check credentials and check how funds are allocated towards benefiting the environment. It is also important for people to remember that while it is nearly impossible to keep your carbon footprint at zero, one should try to make as many environmentally responsible choices as you can possibly make.

While a trip home for the holidays may be good for the soul and for a mother’s happiness, it does end up costing a little more than the plane ticket or gas for your car. Try making environmentally responsible choices in your day-to-day life,  choose to travel for only one holiday- spend Thanksgiving locally and Christmas with the folks, or vice versa.

Nothing clears a guilty conscience as much as living well, and if you try your hardest, you can keep both your mother and Mother  Nature happy as clams.

-Meghan Hurley

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