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Your first move should always be to reduce your own emissions, as we will never manage to absorb the carbon emissions of our throwaway culture. It is hard to be sure an offset will permanently “absorb” your carbon emissions and make you “carbon neutral”. Trees, for example, need years to grow enough to reabsorb the carbon from your flight, and no one can guarantee they will be left standing long enough. It is also often tricky to ensure offsets such as renewable energy projects or forest maintenance are “additional” – that they support projects that wouldn’t otherwise have happened.

Consume less, drive less, heat less, fly less.

But when it is not possible, you can pay extra to offset your carbon footprint.

Well, ... it is not so easy actually!

While not all carbon offsets are a scam, many still are. Many investigations uncovered dubious assumptions, willful misrepresentations, and accounting errors, that even led in some cases to drive emissions up, not down. Much of the problem is rooted in the fact there is no official international standard for carbon offset accounting. Even the UK Environment Agency was still learning and gathering evidence early 2021 to help shape their offsetting strategy.

So you still need to do your own due diligence, to make sure that the offset is real, permanent and additional (i.e. it does draws down more carbon than would have happened without its sale).

Start by measuring what you need to offset

Different calculators:

Learn what carbon offsetting is about, how it works and what to look out for

Use this guide from Gold Standard (Gold Standard was established in 2003 by WWF and other international NGOs to ensure projects that reduced carbon emissions featured the highest levels of environmental integrity and also contributed to sustainable development).

Choose the types of projects you want to fund to offset your carbon footprint

Peat and woodland have a strong evidence base as a result of a significant body of previous research and this has enabled the development of two accredited carbon codes. Other projects have had less evidence collated – not necessarily meaning that they are not valid from a carbon offsetting perspective, but more evidence is needed.

​Find the right platforms to fund specific projects

These platforms group offset projects that are verified by third parties:

QAS independently audits carbon offsetting schemes against a 40-point methodology – some of the platforms listed here have already received their certification.

You could also choose to directly fund nature-based projects – without going through a carbon offsetting program.

If you do not need an offset certificate, you can also directly support green initiatives, such as:

Get your company to offset its footprint

Finally, advocate for your company to offset its carbon footprint – check 3Degrees

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