My fiance and I recently purchased equipment from Yakima to mount our bikes in our truck bed. The sticker on the outside of the package said "Carbonfree with Carbonfund.org." My first thought was, "I bet that makes more people buy this particular brand." But then I really got to thinking about what it would mean to be "carbon free."
Carbonfund.org's slogan is, "Reduce what you can. Offset what you can't." The organization accepts tax-deductible contributions and uses them to support carbon-reducing projects.
While carbon offsets are a great idea, it still doesn't seem to me that anything could really be carbon free. Yeah, we can buy carbon offsets for all the carbon we end up producing, but does that include everything? What about the carbon emissions produced by the shipping of this bike mount? What about the carbon used in the steel that makes the bike mount in the first place? What about the carbon emissions from the production of the plastic packaging? It seems to me that this could continue all the way down to the carbon dioxide produced by the humans manufacturing and selling the bike mount.
When you think about things in a life cycle analysis, carbon is inherent in nearly everything. Yes, I think carbon offsets would neutralize the major carbon emissions from manufacturing. Is that everything? I don't know. Which leaves me wondering, is anything really carbon free?
Do we need a distinction between "carbon neutral" and "carbon free"? Or does it even make a difference to consumers beyond the energy-conscious citizen?