Carbon Offsets: the Solution for Climate Change?

carbon offsets to compensate greenhouse emissions created by air travel
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So I live abroad and I travel by plane quite often to visit my family. I’m aware that by flying I’m responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions, and I also know that flying is the largest piece of my carbon footprint cake.

So I get a free guilt trip along with my plane ticket.

Well, my family is waiting for me to visit and I can’t really avoid the plane part. But now there is a way to compensate the guilt and the greenhouse emissions. What a time to be alive!

What on earth are carbon offsets?

Carbon offsets have become quite popular as a way to compensate the greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity, but until quite recently they were rather reserved to the corporate side of things – meaning that maybe you were not aware that your plane ticket came with a charge to offset your flight’s emissions, but the airline included the offsets as a part of their services.

Carbon offsets are not tangible, they are not material goods.

Think about them like toppings you get on a nice gelato. Only that the gelato might be a plane ticket or a piece of clothing. And the sprinkles and chocolate sauce are these climate credits given to rural development, tree-planting programs, or clean energy investments, to name a few.

Where can I find them?

You can find a few companies (ranging from clothing to airlines) that use them as a way to compensate their emissions and reduce their carbon footprint, or even as a tool to become carbon neutral, like the fashion brand The Reformation (carbon neutral since 2015) with their campaign Carbon is Cancelled.

But you don’t need to buy new clothes or go on holiday to buy offsets. There are also organizations that let you purchase climate credits to contribute to a project of your choice – you can find a couple of my favorite companies here.

Their goal is to help you compensating the greenhouse emissions you create with your lifestyle or with a part of it – how much you use your car, how carbon-heavy your diet is,…

So the whole idea is that we should already be doing your best to reduce your carbon footprint and use the offsets as extra help.

You can learn a few easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint here.

And why should I buy carbon offsets

I know a couple people who have gifted their loved ones a star for their birthday – you know, they pay to name a star after them.

If people pay for that, why wouldn’t you pay to save our actual planet? – just asking idk.

There are so many reasons I could go on and on for days, but mainly:

  • You’re compensating the CO2 that you unavoidably create. Maybe you take public transport to get around, which already helps a lot. But those emissions are a part of your footprint still…but you have places to go, and you need to get there somehow, right?
  • You’re investing in clean energy projects. Many of the offsets translate into planting trees, but these will have effects in the long term (10-20 years, when the trees are fully grown). That’s why there are other projects aiming to invest in clean energy installations for areas in need, or even in some cases developed countries.
  • You’re helping rural communities. Many of these projects are based in developing countries, which translates into extra income for small farmers and some extra help taking care of their environment.
  • You’re investing in future. For the environment, the communities involved and the whole planet.

BONUS REASON: they can be as cheap as 9$/10€ for a ton of CO2 WHAAAAAAT?! C’mon, that’s the price of a frappuccino, you can do it!.

And this is how you find trustworthy carbon offsets

I already did my research so that you don’t have to and listed some of the programs that caught my eye the most in this post.

But in case you want to find the one that fits you best, here you have some handy tips to help you find legit and non-scammy carbon offsets:

  • Transparency is key. Make sure you can find yearly reports that verify that they’re actually doing the work they claim. Also, they should be transparent about the amount of emissions they have saved, about how the money you give is invested, and a long etc. They also should list the projects they’re working on.
  • Make sure they are verified and certified. A third party can confirm that the person or program receiving the money is real and is using it for the ends they promised.
  • They have to be permanent. The seller must guarantee that the trees they’ll plant won’t be cut down in 10 years, or that the wind generators installed will be used.
  • They must be additional. “Additionality” is a tricky concept, but let’s say that the GHG reduction thanks to the offsets has to be added to the business-as-usual scenario. This means that the reduction must be real and effective and that the company/landowner that receives the money cannot use those CO2 credits as a wiggle room to pollute elsewhere.


So what are your next steps?

  1. Learn more about your carbon footprint
  2. Decide what do you want to offset. Just a part of your lifestyle? Your summer flight?
  3. Choose your perfect offsetting project
  4. TADAAAAA. Thanks to you we’ll be one step closer to a sustainable future.

what are carbon offsets and why we should invest in them

What do you think?

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