A Buyer’s Guide to Carbon Offsets: What You Need to Know
A little money can go a long way when it comes to offsetting your carbon footprint. Purchasing carbon offsets can affordably help fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or champion alternative energy. In fact, the American Wind Energy Association states that in 2016, wind-generated energy avoided an estimated 159 million metric tons of CO2, reducing emissions by 9%.
But as with so many things, there are some illegitimate players in the market trying to capitalize on carbon offset sales and offering products that don’t give back to our planet. Take precautions to avoid the scams! You ask: What do I need to know before purchasing carbon offsets? We’re here to help!
Understand carbon offsets and the projects they support.
Although we try to live a green lifestyle, from time to time, we all engage in activities that create pollution (air travel, commuting to work, dinner out with friends, clients, etc.). For these unavoidable activities, carbon offsets are the perfect solution, as they allow you to balance out the emissions created from those polluting activities that occur in daily life. Both corporate and individual carbon offsets reduce greenhouse gas emissions not by grounding flights to see clients or to visit grandma, but by investing money in projects that reduce greenhouse gasses and/or produce renewable energy. When you buy carbon offsets, your purchase contributes to projects that make our world a cleaner, greener place. See a list of the terrapass carbon offset projects here.
Ensure the carbon offset program is transparent.
Contact the company directly to find out what you’re buying. Ask specific questions. What projects are supported? How much money does each project receive? Are results guaranteed? How long does each project receive support? How are projects chosen? Get all the details on the terrapass projects here.
How can I trust the seller? Is this trade regulated?
The seller should guarantee that the offsets are real, verified, enforceable by a third party watchdog and that the offset is permanent. Carbon offsets aren’t regulated, but you should look for a mention of the Gold Standard strict vetting system or the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), which is a global benchmark standard for project-based, voluntary, greenhouse gas emission reductions and removals. VCS was developed by The Climate Group, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and a range of business, government, and non-government organizations. Ensure that your carbon offsets have oversight from a trustworthy third party. See the terrapass standards here.
Do you already purchase carbon offsets? If so, great! But don’t stop there! An investment in carbon offsets is just one element of an environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
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