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Carbon Credits - Ways to Offset Your Emissions

carbon credits

Greening every aspect of your life can only eliminate so much. At home, at work, and on the road, you're still going to emit the carbon that contributes to climate change. What carbon offsets do is present a way for you to become "carbon neutral". You simply calculate the amount of carbon you emit on an activity or annual basis, then support projects that eliminate an equivalent amount of carbon from entering the atmosphere. One ERT (Emission Reduction Ton) = the reduction or removal from the atmosphere of one metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Choose Your Offsets Carefully

Whether you're deep into your research of carbon offsets or you know only what you've heard in the mainstream media, no doubt you're aware of the skepticism surrounding them, and with good reason. By definition, the only true carbon offset is one that results from a project that would otherwise not take place without investments through the carbon market. Unfortunately, a number of companies sell offsets for projects that would take place anyway. So buying offsets from these companies makes no real difference at all.

When buying carbon offsets, choose companies that adhere to the strictest standards, including third-party 1) certification, 2) verification and 3) auditing of projects that are:

  • Real - offsets that have already occurred
  • Additional - offsets that would not have occurred without the offset project
  • Permanent - lasting or guaranteed to be replaced should losses occur
  • Verifiable - offsets that can be quantified, monitored and verified

Avoid any company that judges its offsets on the "performance standard". Instead of limiting projects to those that would not be possible without the carbon market, the performance standard counts as offsets any reduction of energy that is below a certain benchmark. Yes, the project may be one that is environmentally-friendly, but it is one that would have happened anyway, regardless of carbon market support.

Carbon Advice Group

When searching for carbon offset opportunities, the following resources are a good place to start, all of which award certifications to companies that meet strict carbon offset standards:

  • Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance
  • American Carbon Registry
  • Green-e Energy
  • International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance
  • Voluntary Carbon Standard
  • The Gold Standard
  • Climate Action Reserve

Any one of these organizations can point you in the right direction of companies using carbon offsets for projects that are real, additional, permanent and verifiable, such as the non-profit and, two of the most trusted names in the carbon offset market.

NOTE: Do not purchase carbon offsets from a company that sells or trades them. Once purchased, carbon offsets should be retired, as they should only count once.

Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

Once you have decided on a project to support, an online carbon calculator can help you determine just how much you produce and, in turn, how much you need to offset. As with carbon offsets, all carbon calculators are not created equal. Both and have reliable carbon calculators, as should any other trusted, transparent, certified company from which you decide to buy your offsets. You should be able to calculate your carbon either according to U.S. averages or your own customized data.

Get Your Certificate

Every offset you buy should come with its own certificate. As outlined by the American Carbon Registry, the certificate should include a serial number unique to the offset, as well as total tonnage purchased, the verifier's name and signature, the project location, the owner's name and address, and a vintage date.

Just remember that carbon offsets are the final step in the greening of your life. Before you buy them, take all the steps you can to reduce your energy consumption (i.e., carbon emissions) first. Our comprehensive Green Living Checklist is a great place to start.