Do Carbon Offsets Work?

Tue, 2014-03-18 14:29

Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as yes or no. Whether or not the offsets you purchase actually decrease your greenhouse gas emissions depends on what you buy. There are schemes out there that simply take your money and never make a contribution toward carbon reduction projects. Other programs may only offset a portion of your emissions and pocket most of your contribution. These are the types of schemes that give carbon offsets a bad name. But, despite all the negative press surrounding the offset industry, there are plenty of organizations out there that actually work to make your carbon offsets count.

Tips for Finding a Carbon Offset Program That Works

1. Look for a nonprofit. The first step in finding a great carbon offset program is to look for a nonprofit company. With this type of company, you get the most for your money. Because nonprofits only keep enough money to pay for expenses, the majority of your contribution goes straight to carbon reduction projects.

Wind Turbine photo2. Examine the projects. Not all carbon offset programs are created equal. If you're willing to spend money to reduce your footprint, it's important to know what you're paying for. Sure, planting trees will help the environment, but it will take a long time for that tree to capture enough carbon to offset your emissions. Instead, look for companies that invest your dollars in clean energy projects, such as methane gas capture or wind energy generation. These projects can offset your emissions much quicker and also offer social benefits.

3. Make sure the savings count. It's best to work with a carbon offset company that uses third-party verification. This keeps companies honest and ensures that your contribution eliminated emissions that would not have otherwise occurred.

New Ways to Cut Back on Emissions

Now that sustainability and carbon reduction has gained global focus, it has gotten even easier to reduce your impact on the planet. A number of organizations will now offset emissions on your behalf, so you don't have to scour the web for the right carbon reduction project.

  •, an energy marketplace, is donating 100 pounds of carbon offsets for any new "Like" it receives on its Facebook page with a goal of offsetting 50 tons of carbon emissions. If you want to reduce your footprint further, the company works with a number of retail energy providers to make it possible for residents in deregulated states to purchase renewable energy supply.
  • 41 Pounds is also working to make your carbon footprint lighter. The company offers a service to help you get rid of junk mail and limit the amount of waste you cause. And when you purchase its $35, five-year subscription, the company will offset 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions on your behalf.
  • Detour, an adventure travel marketplace, makes it possible to offset your emissions before you take a trip. In the past, you would have had to find a carbon offset company, figure out the emissions caused by a plane ride, and pay to offset it. But Detour takes out all of the work for you. Not only does the company work with local businesses, tour operators and hotels, it also offers a number of carbon-neutral travel packages.

Clint Robertson is an energy writer and green building consultant who has held numerous positions in the energy industry. His work promotes ways to reduce our carbon footprint through the development and utilization of renewable energy sources. Feel free to reach out to him directly on twitter.



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