Carbon Offsets: How to Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Carbon offsets are important for people and companies who want to fight climate change. When you offset your carbon footprint - by purchasing carbon offsets - you're making your personal impact on global climate change even smaller than it otherwise would be - even beyond decreasing your carbon footprint through behavior changes.

What is a carbon offset?

The purpose of a carbon offset is to fund a project, which reduces carbon emissions, that otherwise would not have happened without that funding.

The reason that good quality carbon offsets are valuable is because they help to reduce total carbon emissions. Carbon emissions are the cause of global warming and climate change - so reducing carbon emissions is critical to reducing climate change and having a stable environment on Earth.

You can see our comprehensive guide to understanding climate change and global warming here

1. Carbon Footprint Definition

We each have a responsibility when it comes to the emissions of greenhouse gasses - our share of that responsibility is our carbon footprint.

Carbon footprint: a person's (or company's) share of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by our actions and lifestyle.
Check out our guide on how to reduce your carbon footprint

2. How Your Carbon Footprint is Measured

Your carbon footprint is measured in units of Carbon Dioxide equivalent (CO2e), because each of the greenhouse gasses mentioned above has a different potential to warm the planet - known as the global warming potential (GWP).

For example, one unit of methane emissions causes about 25x the warming as one unit of carbon dioxide emissions. For this reason, greenhouse gas emissions are usually measured in their equivalent CO2 impact on global warming, known as CO2e. This allows comparison between each gas type with regards to its climate change impact and allows individuals and companies to understand the sum-total of their climate change impact.

3. Carbon Neutral Definition

Becoming carbon neutral is a goal for many people, companies and nations.

Carbon neutral is defined as zero net greenhouse gas emissions arising from a person, company or nation.

The way to accomplish carbon neutrality is to:

  1. Minimize your carbon emissions

  2. Offset the rest by funding projects that prevent carbon emissions

Carbon Neutral = 0 Net Emissions

Current footprint

minus current emissions

minus Reductions through personal choices

minus Carbon Offsets

= you're carbon neutral

4. Average Carbon Footprint per Person

The average carbon footprint per person varies greatly between countries. Larger countries with higher amounts of fossil fuel use and higher levels of consumption have larger average carbon footprints per person, while countries with lower fossil fuel use have lower average carbon footprints per person.

You can see a full list of carbon emissions by country here.

In order to better understand our individual carbon footprints, we can look at the average carbon footprint from our countries. Here are some average carbon footprint numbers per person:

  • United States average carbon footprint: 18 tonnes CO2e per year

  • Canada average carbon footprint: 17 tonnes CO2e per year

  • Japan average carbon footprint: 11 tonnes CO2e per year

  • Germany average carbon footprint: 10 tonnes CO2e per year

  • China average carbon footprint: 9 tonnes CO2e per year

Source: Data source is the World Bank, which accounts for CO2 emissions only, the numbers above assume an additional 15% CO2e emissions from non-CO2 gasses such as methane and nitrous oxide. Numbers are rounded.

5. Carbon Offset Standards

Carbon Offset Standards are a way of verifying that carbon emissions have been reduced by a project. Each standard has its own specific methodology of verifying and measuring a project's carbon reduction. Below you can see the carbon offset standards and their total issued credits in 2017.

Carbon Offset Standards by their total issued offsets in 2017

6. How to Choose a Carbon Offset Project

When choosing a carbon offset project, we believe that it's most important that you're happy with the project that you're supporting and that one of the official third-party verification companies has verified the project and it's impact.

We'll take you through two different examples:

Carbon offsets that come from preventing deforestation are relatively easy to understand. Prior to the project, the trees were in imminent danger to be cut down - often, locals depended on the income of the charcoal to survive. With the project, the trees are being protected, stay standing and keep breathing in CO2. The job of the verification firm is to regularly confirm that the trees are still standing, count the trees and issue the certificates for the amount of carbon emissions prevented. (The monitoring and auditing process in practice is a lot more complicated with lots of formulas, calculations and measurements, but this is essentially what takes place.)

How Carby Box carbon offsets prevent deforestation with our partner Wildlife Works

Now let's take a look at a project from renewable energy. To us, a renewable energy project issuing carbon offsets doesn't make much sense. We do believe firmly in renewable energy as a great way to power the economy at better prices than coal but why doesn't it make sense to sell renewable energy carbon offsets? - Well, the wind turbine or solar farm will generate electricity, which will then be sold profitably. That means that the project would probably have happened without sales of carbon offsets. So there's no real need for carbon offsets to generate an income.

Remember the purpose of a carbon offset:

The purpose of a carbon offset is to fund a project, which reduces carbon emissions, that otherwise would not have happened without that funding. In the case of trees, they have dollar value in many cases only when they are cut down. Carbon offsets are a way to give those trees a dollar value for staying alive - the value of the carbon they keep out of the atmosphere.

7. How to Buy Carbon Offsets

The reason we created Carby Box was to make it easy for everyone to purchase reliable carbon offsets that prevent deforestation, eliminate the need to go through complicated carbon calculators and empower everyone to offset the average carbon footprint in 1 click. If everyone offsets the average carbon footprint, we will accomplish the same goal, with almost none of the headache of carbon calculators and shopping around. Alternatively, you can also look on your favorite search engine for carbon offsets and choose from the dozens of other verified (!) options available there.

You can purchase Carby Box carbon offsets on Amazon, to offset your carbon footprint for 1 month, 6 months or 1 year at a time.

Did you know?

If you have an Amazon Alexa device, you can also say: "Alexa, order Carbon Neutral" and purchase Carby Box in one simple sentence with Amazon Alexa.

Carby Box is the first carbon offsets ever available via voice command - give it a try!

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