Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

Emissions reduction projects

What is a carbon offset?
A carbon offset is a certificate representing the reduction of one metric ton (2,205 lbs) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions, the principal cause of climate change. Although complex in practice, carbon offsets are fairly simple in theory. If you develop a project that reduces carbon dioxide emissions, every ton of emissions reduced results in the creation of one carbon offset. Project developers can then sell these offsets to help finance their projects.
What activities should I offset?
Offsets should be used for all activities that add to your carbon footprint.

We encourage individuals and organizations alike to first reduce their carbon footprint as best they can.  Most of us can’t reduce our carbon footprint to zero, so offsets should be used to mitigate the impact of these remaining emissions.

For individuals, the three most common and measurable activities include:

(1) Car Travel: If you own a car, chances are that burning gasoline is a major source of carbon emissions.

(2) Home energy use: Heating, cooling, and using appliances can be a significant source of emissions for many people.

(3) Air travel: A round-trip flight between New York and Los Angeles uses about 120 gallons of jet fuel per passenger. This single trip creates CO2 emissions equal to about 2 months of driving.

Go to our calculator to calculate the emissions from these activities.

For businesses: Businesses engage in a number of activities that are carbon intensive and vary based on business type. In general, these activities include employees commutes, building energy use, servers and data storage, employee travel and shipping or other freight.  Our corporate carbon calculator can help you assess the major components of your business’ carbon footprint, or you can contact one of our advisors.

What are the benefits of buying carbon offsets?

Carbon offsets allow individuals and businesses to be accountable for their unavoidable carbon emissions. While conservation is an important first step in fighting climate change, we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. When you purchase carbon offsets from terrapass you are supporting emissions reductions projects in communities throughout the North America and the world. 

For businesses, calculating your carbon footprint is an important measurement of resources. Knowing and offsetting your carbon footprint creates value for your business by:

Showing leadership and innovation. Taking action sends a strong message to your key stakeholders — employees, customers, and investors, many of whom will hold your business accountable for its contribution to climate change.

Involving your employees. A terrapass employee program will help communicate your business’ dedication to the environment and infuse that commitment into your company’s culture.

Aligning with your customers’ values. People prefer to do business with companies whose values align with their own. Demonstrating your business’ commitment to addressing climate change with a carbon offset program will help attract and retain valuable customers. 

Do the offsets I buy improve the environment in my area?
There’s only one atmosphere. Unlike smog or acid rain, climate change is not limited to any specific region, and offsets offer a global solution to climate change. However, our projects do usually provide additional environmental benefits such as reductions in mercury, volatile organic compounds, and groundwater contamination, which are beneficial to the communities where the projects are based.
Where does my money go when I buy a terrapass carbon offset?
When you buy carbon offsets from terrapass your purchase is supporting emissions reduction projects in communities across the North America and the world. These projects include reforestation, renewable energy produced by wind power and methane capture at dairy farms,  landfills, and abandoned coal mines.  Carbon offsets help fund the development and operation of these projects. All terrapass projects meet the highest standards for quality, monitoring, and independent verification. To learn more about the projects in our current portfolio please visit our projects page.
How does terrapass ensure that its offset projects are really making a difference?

Terrapass ensures our offsets are making a difference in several ways. Prior to adding a project to our portfolio we perform due diligence to fully understand the impact of each project. Once the project is in our portfolio we monitor and verify all of the emissions reductions that are taking place. Finally all projects in our portfolio must pass the “additionality” test. Additionality refers to the concept of whether your carbon offset purchase really brings about carbon reductions, or whether the reductions would have happened anyway. If the purchase of carbon offsets is a critical factor in making the reductions happen, the reductions are said to be “additional” to the business-as-usual case. By verifying and checking at each step in the process we are committed to making sure our projects are clearing the air.  Learn more about our terrapass portfolio accountability.

Is terrapass independently audited and verified?
Yes. To ensure maximum transparency and accountability, every terrapass offset purchase is verified by an accredited and independent third party at the project level, when and where the offsets are being created. In addition, our total offset portfolio is subject to a separate periodic review by a different accredited and independent third party. Read more about our verification practices


Doing business with Terrapass

Do I own the carbon offset that my terrapass pays for?
When you purchase a terrapass, we buy the carbon offsets on your behalf and remove them from the market so they can’t be traded or resold. By removing them, we ensure that the reductions are permanent — they can never be used by another entity as a permit to pollute. You never actually take ownership of the carbon offsets themselves. But you do get a nice gift!
What do I get when I purchase carbon offsets?
An offset represents a verified reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Your purchase is confirmed through email. If you want to help spread the word about offsets or need a physical reminder to calculate your footprint next year, we offer several items during the check-out process. To keep the carbon footprint of your transaction as low as possible, we do not automatically send these items with purchase, but you can “opt in” for this by checking a box during the checkout process. If you are offsetting an event or wedding we will customize a certificate to display during your event.

What is the terraPass refund policy?
Every terrapass purchase comes with a money-back guarantee. If for any reason you’re not satisfied with your purchase, you can have a full refund. Just send us an email at [email protected] requesting a refund within 30 days of placing your order.
How is terrapass different from other offset companies?
We put a premium on the quality of the carbon reduction projects we support and on accountability to our customers. Because we only source carbon credits that meet the highest standards, we simply can’t meet the prices offered by providers who do not adhere to the same quality standards. That doesn’t mean we charge premium prices though; we charge a fair price for a great product. 

We were also the first carbon offset vendor to seek independent auditing of our purchases and marketing claims. We think our customers appreciate the value of knowing with certainty that their offset purchase is making a difference for the environment. You can read more about the terrapass difference.

Is terrapass non-profit or for-profit?
terrapass is a for-profit social enterprise. As a for profit company we are able to support projects that destroy greenhouse gases and produce renewable energy. We are passionate about fighting climate change. We believe the best way to do it is by running our business as a business, and by pushing ourselves to run a lean and efficient operation that can grow to meet the enormous challenge we face in climate change.

As a social venture, our growth is tied to our social mission. Simply put, the more members we attract, the more carbon dioxide we remove from the environment.

Can I deduct my terrapass purchase from my taxes?
Businesses can treat their purchase as a tax-deductible business expense. Individuals can not deduct their terrapass purchase from their taxes.
Can I sell carbon offsets to terrapass?

Terrapass has very high and very specific standards for the projects that it will support.  Learn more about our project standards and our principals here.  If you have a project that you think could qualify for terrapass support, feel free to send us an email at [email protected]

Can't find what you're looking for?
Email us at i[email protected]. We’ll get back to you within one business day.


Additional details

How do you calculate my carbon emissions?
Our driving emissions calculator uses fuel economy data from the Environmental Protection Agency to estimate the miles per gallon of your car or truck. By coupling this information with an estimate of the number of miles driven, we are able to determine how many gallons of gas have been used. From here, it’s a simple calculation to convert gallons of gas to pounds of carbon dioxide. If the final figure seems higher than you expected, remember that gasoline triples in weight when it is burned and turned into carbon dioxide.

Our home energy emissions calculator asks you to input your location and average energy bills. When you tell us your ZIP and utility bill data, we can accurately estimate your annual energy consumption. We then convert this estimate of your total annual energy consumption into an estimate of carbon dioxide emissions. Although this technique yields a good approximation, you can also fine tune the result by entering more specific data.

Our flight emissions calculator asks you to input the origin and destination for any flights you want to offset. We then calculate the distance of each of these flights. By applying some standard factors for fuel consumption during airline flights provided by the World Resource Institute, we are able to convert your total flight miles into estimated carbon dioxide emissions.

What if my car or truck is not listed in the calculator or runs on alternative fuels like biodiesel?
Please submit the details of your vehicle to [email protected] and we will try to incorporate it into our calculator in the near future. In the meantime, you can use our carbon calculator to enter an estimate of your miles per gallon directly, so you can still find out how big your carbon footprint from driving is.
What’s the difference between a REC and a carbon offset?
Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and carbon offsets are both instruments that represent a quantifiable environmental benefit associated with an activity. A REC represents the environmental attributes derived from 1 megawatt-hour of renewable energy generation. A carbon offset represents the prevention or sequestration of 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions. If you are interested in learning more about RECs, contact us to learn more.
Terrapass claims to reduce a specific amount of carbon dioxide, but don’t some of your projects actually reduce methane?
Yes. Methane is one of the greenhouse gases officially recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a major cause of global warming, along with carbon dioxide and four others. Methane comes from a variety of sources both natural and manmade, such as farm waste and landfills. All six major greenhouse gases are typically converted into their “carbon dioxide equivalent” for ease of comparison. For example, methane is 84 times as powerful a warming agent as carbon dioxide, so we multiply methane reductions by a standard factor to calculate their carbon dioxide equivalent. The reduction associated with each terrapass purchase is stated in pounds of carbon dioxide, but we’re really talking about carbon dioxide equivalents. In fact, all carbon offsets are denominated this way.