Wouldn’t it be great if we could all lead a carbon neutral lifestyle? Unfortunately that's not reality given our current technology and lifestyles. However through purchasing carbon offsets, it's possible to counteract our carbon footprint and achieve neutrality.
First things first, reduce your carbon footprint
Before thinking about carbon offsets, the first step we need to take is identify our daily practices that create the largest greenhouse gases and try to reduce or eliminate them. We’ve already talked about some of the ways you can cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, but just in case you haven't had the opportunity to read each and every blog we've written in the 100 Day Challenge, here are the highlights.
Eat a more plant-based diet (Day 35)
Recycle (Day 70)
Wash your clothes in cold water (Day 68)
Reduce standby (phantom) energy consumption (Day 48)
Buy local and seasonal food (Day 36)
Use a laundry line instead of a dryer (Day 29)
Compost at home (Day 28)
Use electric lawn equipment (Day 15)
Switch to renewable energy plans for your electricity (Day 10)
What are carbon offsets?
Let's say you've lowered your carbon footprint as much as possible, but you still haven't reached carbon neutrality and you want to do more -- this is when you can turn to carbon offsets.
HowStuff Works describes carbon offsets best:
Carbon offsets are a form of trade. When you buy an offset, you fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The projects might restore forests, update power plants and factories or increase the energy efficiency of buildings and transportation. Carbon offsets let you pay to reduce the global GHG total instead of making radical or impossible reductions of your own. GHG emissions mix quickly with the air and, unlike other pollutants, spread around the entire planet. Because of this, it doesn't really matter where GHG reductions take place if fewer emissions enter the atmosphere.
Many people buy carbon offsets when they take a long plane flight, since planes emit a tremendous amount of carbon pollution. Some companies like Allbirds have committed to carbon neutrality to offset the impact of their operations and bands like Coldplay and Pink Floyd even released carbon-neutral albums. All of this is possible through carbon offsets.
The idea of carbon offsets is not without its controversies and some environmentalists believe you're encouraging bad behavior by providing the ability to purchase carbon offsets. We understand that point of view but still believe it's another tool in each individual's toolkit to make a difference in reducing global greenhouse gases.
Not all carbon offsets are created equal and you need to do your homework to be sure you are funding reputable groups and projects that result in emission reductions that are real, additional, and permanent. Look for projects that have been rigorously certified by organizations such as the Gold Standard, Verra's Verified Carbon Standard, or Green-e.
Do your research, see if there's an offset project that resonates with you, and go carbon neutral! But don’t forget that the most important work you can do is to make daily changes in your life to reduce your carbon footprint.