It’s the start of a new year and though we all aspire to do better, this year it seems there’s more riding on it. While January is usually the time for joining a gym to tackle the “be better” resolution, this year people are looking to be better in a different way — being sustainable.
Climate change is non-deniable, and with multiple reports published in 2018 stressing the importance of acting now, more and more people find themselves making resolutions related to living more environmentally friendly.
But the big question is how?
The short answer is that there is no short answer, and living sustainably requires you to engage and change several aspects of your life.
If you feel yourself getting tired and discouraged from reading that, don’t worry. Even though there isn’t one magical thing you can do to live sustainably, there are many easy-to-start solutions that significantly lower your carbon footprint. One of them is carbon offsetting.
What is carbon offsetting?
According to the Oxford dictionary, carbon offsetting is defined as
“The process of trying to reduce the damage caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the environment by doing other things that remove carbon dioxide, for example, by planting trees”.
Basically, it’s carbon bookkeeping. If you spend money on one account, you have to add money to that account to not go into debt. By doing various activities like driving, flying, heating your home, and charging your iPhone, you are spending from an account that you’re not paying into: the global carbon account.
Carbon offsetting is one of many methods aimed at leveling the enormous carbon debt that we as a global society have created. It can stop us from going into further debt while we transit to a renewable energy system.
You might have heard about carbon offsetting before, in a not so positive light.
One critique has been that carbon offsetting is more a question of buying an indulgence, and less about fighting global warming.
Historically some forms of offsetting have proven to be less than ideal, and we’ve heard tales of scam offsetting projects or inefficient technologies that meant the carbon reduction was next to nothing.
Luckily, we have better measurements and technical standards now, meaning that companies selling poor offset programs are called out on it.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of carbon offsetting out there.
Different types of offsetting
Thankfully, there are different ways to stop carbon from entering our atmosphere, meaning that there are also different types of carbon offsetting.
Here’s a list of some of the different types offsetting:
· Renewable energy;
· Methane collection and combustion;
· Energy efficiency;
· Destruction of industrial pollutants;
· Land use, landuse change, and forestry;
· Purchase of carbon allowances from emissions trading schemes.
Here money is invested in renewable energy technologies, such as wind power, solar power, hydroelectric power, and biofuel. Some of these programs are used to shrink the cost differential between renewable and conventional energy.
Methane collection and combustion
This is the smelly brother of the offsetting family. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2, meaning one gram of methane does as much damage as 23 grams of CO2.
This type of offsetting consists of the combustion (burning to create energy) or containment of methane generated by farm animals, landfills, or industrial waste.
Projects involving carbon offsetting via addressing energy efficiency seek to reduce the overall demand for energy; for instance, by optimizing energy-efficient buildings, or introducing fuel efficiency by replacing a combustion device with one using less fuel.
The problem with this type of offsetting is that it assumes energy demand will not change. In fact, in all of human history, energy demand has never decreased. Every time we invent a new lightbulb that uses less power, we merely use more lightbulbs. For example, you can now get battery-powered LED shoelaces.
Destruction of industrial pollutants
Sounding like something from a sci-fi movie, the destruction of industrial pollutants is the process of capturing and destroying specific pollutants, such as hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons, which are many thousands of times as potent a greenhouse gas asCO2.
Land use, landuse change and forestry
Deforestation currently causes about 10 % of global carbon emissions. This type of offsetting focuses on natural carbon sinks, by halting deforestation and planting new forests on former farmland or barren lands. In short, it’s the process of sucking up some of the CO2in the atmosphere, and storing it in plants that convert CO2to oxygen.
Often natural areas are preserved and in the process local jobs are created.
Purchase of carbon allowances from emissions trading schemes
These are the cap-and-trade programs, where companies, usually in the fossil fuels sector, purchase carbon allowances. There is a set amount of aloneness on the market, and companies need to buy to pay for their carbon pollution. Other organizations can then buy the allowances that companies like power plants and oil refineries need to hold to comply with a cap, thus tightening the cap and forcing additional carbon reductions. If there are not enough allowances to go around, companies have to start investing in better technology and lower their emission, instead of buying allowances.
Which type of carbon offsetting is best?
With all these different types of offsetting to choose from, how do you know which is best?
As with most things in life, there’s no simple answer. What’s best depends on what kind of offsetting you want to support.
However, there is one defining thing you should look for: regulations.
The rule of thumb in carbon offsetting is that legitimate and effective programs are verified in some form of registry.
As long as the program is documented to live up to high standards, like the American Carbon Registry, choosing the type that’s right for you boils down to your values. You could spend months trying to find the perfect plan, but it can be overwhelming, and leave you exhausted — especially if new offsetting options appear in the middle of your search.
In the end, joining an offset program that’s trustworthy, supports your values, and is easy to use is what matters because it allows you to start paying back now.You can begin leveling that global carbon account with some CO2bookkeeping.
If you’re ready to start your resolution about being more sustainable, you can go here, and look at our subscription solution. Reduce your carbon emissions with just a few clicks. You can also read about why we chose landuse change and forestry as our method to offset your car’s carbon footprint. Check out our about page if you think we may be a good match for you.