There are a number of organizations that offer carbon offsets, but it can be difficult to decide which one to go with. When offsetting, it is important to go through an organization that is transparent, knows their stuff, and is creating meaningful and lasting impacts. To help you navigate all of the options that are out there, we’ve put together a list of things to look for when choosing a carbon offset provider. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to rest assured that your contribution is making a real difference and that you aren’t getting scammed.
- Are their projects all third-party verified and validated? All projects should be accredited by internationally recognized Standards, such as Gold Standard or VCS. This means the projects meet rigorous criteria and you can be sure they are legitimate.
- Can they assure that all their projects provide ‘additionality’? Make sure that the project was only made possible by carbon funding. If it would have happened anyway, it wouldn’t meet the Standards and your support is probably better directed elsewhere.
- What type of projects do they offer? Steer clear of organizations that promote solely tree planting projects. It is difficult to prove the permanence of these newly planted trees and they do little to change our reliance on fossil fuels. Forestry projects can be really impactful but make sure they go beyond the planting of trees by protecting existing forests and biodiversity, as well as providing community benefits. Some other types of impactful offset projects include wind farms which help to reduce the amount of non-renewable energy needed from the national grid, as well as water filter programs which reduce the carbon produced by the cutting down and burning firewood to boil water.
- How do they ‘retire’ offsets? All projects should be listed on a registry and offset providers can use these to ‘retire’ projects and make sure the credit you have purchased isn’t resold and double counted towards climate mitigation. Many offset providers work directly with the projects developers and collaborate with them to ensure the offsets are retired.
- Do they offer advice about how to reduce carbon footprints and live more sustainably? Carbon offsetting should be the last resort, and be done only after carbon footprints have been reduced as much as possible. If the offset provider isn’t offering advice and suggestions on how to do this, they might not be as concerned about the environment as you are.
- Are they educating their partners/clients/members about the facts of climate change? Knowledge sharing is vital when it comes to climate change to educate the public on why it is a problem and what we can do to mitigate it.
- Do their projects go beyond carbon offsetting? Every project has huge potential to provide community benefits and biodiversity protection. Find out which of their projects provide employment opportunities, health care benefits, education and the protection of certain species. These impacts are often called co-benefits and checking that the projects align with the UNs Sustainable Development Goals can be a good place to start.
- Is the organization not-for-profit? Choosing to offset your footprint with a non-profit (or NGO) can be a great way to be sure the majority of your money is reaching the project you want to support. Plus, when you offset through a mission-driven organization, you can feel good knowing that you are also supporting broader sustainability initiatives and goals.
- Do they have experience in carbon offsetting? Many organizations are new to the field of carbon offsetting and may not have the technical expertise and established relationships when it comes to offsetting.
- Are they transparent? A reputable organization will have information about their projects, methodologies, and quality assurance protocols readily accessible on their website and be willing to answer your questions. If not, that’s a good clue that they may be trying to hide something. Check that the methodologies used by the organization are clearly defined and any questions you have about your support are answered with clarity.
To get your search started, we invite you to learn more about our carbon offset program. And if you have any questions about carbon offsetting or about our program in particular, please feel free to send us a message and we will be happy to help!