Carbon offsets allow individuals and businesses to offset the CO2 emitted when fossil fuels are burned on their behalf. Carbon credit providers search out sustainable projects that either absorb CO2 or produce substantially less CO2 delivering a particular service – giving you the option to help fund these initiatives. Think of it a donation to a charity with a return to you of less CO2.
Try as we may, we can’t completely eliminate our carbon footprint, even if we opt for a solar-powered home or bike to work every day. The clothes we buy, the food we eat, and the places we go all indirectly use fossil fuels in some form.
If you hit a roadblock in reducing your carbon footprint, but still want to fight climate change, you have the option of balancing out the amount of carbon you release into the atmosphere with carbon offsets. All it takes to offset this carbon is a quick purchase online.
For example, if you are planning your next vacation in an exotic location, but worry about how your plane trip will affect your carbon footprint, you can purchase carbon offsets. Buying a carbon offset will help you calculate the amount of carbon you are putting in the air during your flight, and then give you a price that will eventually remove that same amount of carbon.
How Do Carbon Offsets Work?
A click of a button and a purchase to reduce climate change seems too good to be true, but the process goes far beyond our initial purchase. When an individual or organization purchases carbon offsets, their funds are sent to initiatives and projects that have been working to offset carbon in the environment.
Examples of common projects funded by carbon offsets include:
Collecting methane and carbon from landfills and converting the gas into energy for the surrounding community
Building renewable energy sources
Without the funds raised through carbon offsets, these projects would not be able to get off the ground, nor continue. The carbon offset purchase not only helps to reduce the buyer’s carbon footprint but also builds a relationship between the buyer and the organization that runs the project and puts the buyer’s funds to good use. Climate change can only be tackled if we come together to reduce greenhouse gasses; carbon offsets provides this exciting, collaborative opportunity.
Carbon offsets aren’t just limited to individuals. Businesses have taken advantage of this opportunity to offset fossil fuels that are burned during production. Companies like Google and TD Bank proudly purchase carbon offsets, and Delta Air Lines allows customers to purchase carbon offsets as they book flights.
Concerns Regarding Carbon Offsets
Carbon offsets have not existed without controversy. This method is still changing and evolving as new projects are being put into place. Critics of carbon offsets have questioned whether they are the best way to approach reducing carbon in our atmosphere. Shouldn’t companies be working on using renewable energy sources before they write a check? How do companies know that the purchases they are making will actually translate to a reduction of carbon in the atmosphere?
Let’s address the last question first. If you are purchasing carbon offsets, it is important to do your research. The companies that sell carbon offsets are held to standards that are set and inspected by third parties. These standards have been raised as carbon offsets have gained popularity in the past few years. Carbon offset providers face extra pressure to be transparent and show results of their work. If you are unsure about a company’s ability to prove that their work is reducing carbon in the atmosphere, you may want to go with someone else.
One carbon offset organization that is both well managed and popular, one that oversees multiple sustainable carbon offset projects around the globe is Cool Effect. Give them a serious consideration.
Carbon offsets are certainly an indirect way of reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Our carbon footprint, however, is also made up of indirect purchases and actions. For example, when you purchase an apple or a banana that travels for miles to reach your grocery store, you contribute to your carbon footprint, even if you walked to the grocery store and used a reusable bag during your purchase.
Carbonfund.org, a leader in carbon offsets, puts it this way: “Reduce what you can and offset what you can’t.” We should always be critically looking at where we can conserve and reduce our carbon emissions, but if you want to go a step further, consider purchasing carbon offsets and supporting companies that do.
About The Writer: Megan Okonsky is a writer, yogi, and traveler who enjoys being barefoot and doesn’t mind the term “granola.” She is the marketing director for Our Future Footprint, an apparel company that plants trees and donates to conservation and education initiatives for each purchase.