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Just what is “Carbon Offsetting”?

Just what is “Carbon Offsetting”?

If you’re like me, you may have heard the phrase “Carbon Offsetting” and cognitively lumped it in the same basket as “sustainability” or “carbon neutrality”, and weren’t 100% clear on what it meant. As the impacts of climate change become more and more central to our lives, so too, does the importance of understanding how businesses and agencies are dealing with the issue of Greenhouse Gasses.

You may have read that certain businesses, like Gondwana Ecotours, for example, offer a carbon offsetting option, or simply include it as a part of the sale of a good or service. It sounds good. It feels good. But what is it?

A carbon offset is actually very simple, though it can take many forms. Basically, it is a credit that you can buy that will be used to invest in a program that reduces carbon emissions, or improves the environment. You could buy “offsets” through different sellers; some of them let you choose the program that your offsets go to, others do not.

The programs themselves that your offsets go to fund are varied and broad. Some programs include:

  • Reforestation projects
  • Wind Turbine implementation
  • GHG containment and sequestering
  • Initiatives to implement energy efficient lighting

Since there are so many ways that we can work to reduce our impact, or, even better, negate our impact, there are lots of ways to look at investing your offsets. Many people choose to invest in carbon offsets as a way to reduce their impact by travel, for example. So while the impact of taking a trans-atlantic flight, for example, is not actually mitigated by purchasing offsets, (the environmental toll of the plane flight is still the same) you could use the offsets to, at least in theory, negate the carbon emissions generated from that travel.

Overall, carbon offsets are a great way to compliment an environmentally-conscious lifestyle. It’s important to think of them as a final step in closing the gap on living carbon neutrally. First, cut back on waste, live responsibly, and be conscious, and then your carbon offsets will go even farther!