What is Carbon Offsetting?

“Carbon offsets allow purchasers to neutralize the carbon dioxide produced from their businesses and everyday activities – their ‘carbon footprint’ – by supporting a variety of emissions reduction initiatives.” The Environmental Defense Fund

How does Carbon Offsetting Work?

Carbon offsetting is the act of mitigating (canceling out) greenhouse gas emissions. Individuals and businesses can purchase offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions from personal travel or production processes. Carbon offsets can be more efficient and immediate than other measures an individual can take to fight global warming, while reducing the same or more carbon dioxide emissions.

How can I start reducing my carbon emissions?

The first step towards carbon neutrality is reducing the carbon emissions produced, by using alternative energy, alternative transportation, reusing, recycling, and supporting local farms and businesses. After reducing what you can, use a carbon calculator to determine the amount of carbon emissions you produce (often referred to as the size of your “carbon footprint”). Most carbon calculators provide an estimate of household greenhouse gas emissions (in pounds) resulting from household energy use and waste disposal, and give you information you can use to identify ways to reduce your personal greenhouse gases. Once you know the amount of carbon that needs to be offset, do a little homework, and purchase credits covering that amount from a recognized and respected carbon offset provider. The credits you purchase will be used to support carbon-reducing projects such as renewable energy facilities, energy efficiency research and reforestation projects.

Also, be sure to search the collection of Carbon Offset retailers listed on GenGreenLife.com.

What about Emissions Trading?

For companies and other greenhouse gas producing entities, emissions trading, also called “cap and trade,” is sometimes an economically desirable way to control pollution. Through this method, companies are issued emissions credits by governments or international bodies (like the United Nations) which represent the right to produce a certain amount of emissions (the “cap”). Companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a “trade.” In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed.

What’s the difference between Carbon Offsets and Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)?

The Environmental Defense Fund states that, “A renewable energy certificate, or REC, is proof that a megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable energy has been supplied to the market. Purchasing RECs helps develop the renewable energy supply by subsidizing the higher cost of renewable energy. When you buy a REC, you are purchasing and supporting “green” or renewable power. While RECs provide proof that renewable energy has been supplied, they do not offer verified proof that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.”

Information used in this section was found at EPA.gov, Carbonfund.org and EDF.org.

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