Carbon Offsets/Credits no image

Published on January 11th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


How to Shrink Your CO2 Footprint with Carbon Credits

The purchase of carbon credits is quickly becoming a popular way for corporations to offset their contribution to the level of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.  Some companies now sell carbon credits to consumers seeking to minimize their personal carbon footprint.

Let’s take a peek at the inner workings of the process and some general tips for screening your offsets…    

If you want to offset your entire contribution to global warming for one year, you’ll need to buy about 20 tonnes of CO2 offsets.  Although a few different units are used to measure the amount of carbon produced by an individual, the metric tonne is only about 10% larger than the American ton, so the resulting difference is not significant.

Calculating Your Personal CO2 Emissions

Most people purchase voluntary emissions reductions (VERs) as they seek to offset their CO2 output.  Here is a very general break down of the annual carbon output from a typical American household:  

  • 1/3 is generated by transportation
  • 1/3 is based in residential energy usage
  • 1/3 comes from invisible sources of CO2, such as pumping water to your home, manufacturing the products you purchase, and transporting those products to your local stores

Most carbon offset providers feature a carbon footprint calculator on their Web site, which estimates your total carbon emissions based on information youThe World in Your Hands input about the energy consumed in the course of everday living. 

The Web sites often provide many tips to help you reduce your carbon output using eco-friendly tactics and then they sell you credits to neutralize the rest.

  • LiveNeutral is a non-profit organization that helps you to calculate your personal carbon footprint and sells you credits to offset all or a portion of it.
  • TerraPass is another offset retailer that started out selling stickers to carbon-neutralize personal vehicles.  The company has since expanded to offsetting all types of carbon pollution.

Screening Your Offsets

Many offset-offering companies are springing up in the United States—if you find one you like, ask where their credits are purchased and/or how they are verified to make sure they are worth purchasing.

You’ll want to ask your supplier as many questions as possible since certification is not currently available for supplier-produced VERs as it is with company-owned CERs (certified emissions reductions), which are regulated by a network of international organizations.

Greenpeace recommends credits that:

  • help us reduce our dependency on fossil fuels
  • prove real greenhouse gas savings that would not have occurred under business-as-usual circumstances
  • are created by renewable energy projects or energy efficiency improvements

They do not endorse reforestation projects, though some people argue that reforestation is crucial for sustainability and that carbon credits present the only way to make eco-restoration projects economical.  Even so, always double check with an offset dealer to ensure that your credits will be used to truly benefit the environment. 

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