According to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This not only applies to physics, but also to the decisions we make in our everyday lives. It’s nearly impossible to see the immediate consequences of our actions, but every single decision we make impacts the world around us. By now, there is no doubt among the scientific community that human action is the leading cause of climate change. Although our thoughts immediately turn to huge environmental polluters like the U.S. military, there is no denying that every person and every act counts. One partial solution to this problem is carbon offsetting.
Carbon offsetting has been the subject of much debate in recent years. Opponents of carbon offsetting argue that you shouldn’t waste your money on it, since many companies hide behind their own meager version of carbon offset programs while continuing to invest in outdated, polluting technologies. They then pass the responsibility onto their customers in the form of an “optional carbon offset donation” and offer no insights into how that money is used. Airlines are notorious for this, which is why we briefly mentioned in our article on air travel and climate change that offsetting your flights doesn’t always do as much as you think. It is wrong, however, to generalize when referring to carbon offsetting, as there actually are good programs available.
Before we get into all of that, let’s briefly discuss the topic of carbon offsetting a little more.
Why should you offset your carbon footprint in the first place?
If we, as a species, don’t collectively reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2055, climate change will have a dramatic and irreversible negative impact on us and everything around us. Droughts, heat waves, floods, earthquakes, extinction, unbreathable air, etc. are only a few of the things that we will soon have to deal with if we don’t achieve the above mentioned goal. However, if we want to save our planet, we all have to act right now. Nobody else is going to do it for us.
There are a number of ways to reduce your environmental impact, but despite your best efforts, you may still come up short and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. That’s just the way our society is currently designed. Therefore, anything you cannot reduce, you should try to offset as best as you can. While you do have some power over what you buy, what you eat, how you travel and which type of energy you use, there are some things in life that are still unavoidable, such as going to work, heating your home or traveling abroad to be with your family. These are the types of things that you should offset in order to make your contribution toward a sustainable future.
Don’t know how much you should offset? Calculate your current impact with a carbon footprint calculator. When using a carbon calculator, it’s best to slightly overestimate your consumption to account for any uncertainty.
How to Choose the Right Carbon Offset Program
As good as carbon offsetting might sound, not every carbon offset program adheres to the same important and trustworthy standards. Some programs don’t actually take quality measures very seriously. For instance, sometimes environmental safeguards are optional instead of compulsory, meaning carbon offsetting projects are not required to evaluate their own impact on the local environment and community. Without that assessment, there’s no way of knowing if the project may have accidentally done more harm than good. Therefore, your monetary contributions might not have the impact you want, which is why it’s essential to do your research first.
To spare you all the hassle of finding a reliable program, we did some in-depth research and found the best carbon offset program available. The following program adheres to the highest standards in order to truly contribute to a long-term sustainable future.
The Gold Standard
If you’ve looked into carbon offset programs before, you might have already heard about the Gold Standard and why it is so important.
The Gold Standard makes sure that all of its projects follow strict methodology requirements so that every dollar you spend will have the highest possible impact toward achieving a climate secure and sustainable world.
The Gold Standard stands for:
- internationally and independently validated and verified projects
- permanent and measurable emission reductions through project activity
- unique carbon credits that are traceable in a public registry
- safeguards are mandatory NOT optional
- local stakeholder inclusiveness
- gender sensitivity (only found in the Gold Standard)
- project eligibility where high-risk projects are not eligible
- all projects must have an impact on a minimum of three different sustainable development goals including climate
In order to really make a difference and take responsibility for your carbon footprint, you must offset with a program that follows this high-quality standard. The Gold Standard is the only program that adheres to all of the above mentioned criteria. Therefore, if you choose to (and you should) offset your carbon footprint with the Gold Standard, you can be 100% certain that your money will have a positive climate impact.
The best thing is that you can choose from a variety of projects that you would personally like to support. You can offset your carbon footprint by choosing to support a wind project, a water project, a cookstove project and so much more! It’s really exciting to see where your money actually goes.
Moreover, the Gold Standard is supported by well-known organizations such as WWF, the United Nations, Fairtrade, the Swiss, German and Luxembourg governments as well as many more organizations and governments that are all working toward a sustainable future.
In addition to offsetting unavoidable emissions, you can drastically reduce your carbon footprint by doing the following:
- Drink only tap water (filters are cheap and even save you money in the long run!)
- Buy local and seasonal
- Consume less – e.g. no fast fashion
- Take short showers and shut the water off when applying shampoo, soap, etc.
- Wash your dishes at 55°C
- Take public transportation or a bike
- Wash your clothes at 30°C and dry on a line
- Use low energy bulbs
- Switch to renewable energy sources
- Switch to a plant-based diet (or at least reduce consumption of animal products)
We hope this article helped you make a quicker, easier and more reliable decision about how to reduce your carbon footprint and with which program you should offset your unavoidable emissions.
We have used the Gold Standard ourselves and can vouch for the amazing work that this non-profit organization does! Here is an example of the carbon credits that we’ve retired and how your contribution will be displayed in their public registry:
Carbon Offset Certificate-He said or She said
This certificate also lists the exact projects we supported with links to each one, explaining the what, why and how of each.
What measures do you take to reduce your carbon footprint? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!