Coal power station showing emissions of carbon
Carbon offsetting
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

While we’re going about our day-to-day activities we emit carbon. We may not have control over this emission because sometimes we emit without knowing we’re emitting. Some emissions are simply unavoidable.
This is where the carbon offsetting thing comes in.

Carbon offsetting is just you removing the carbon you’ve emitted from the atmosphere.


Like I said earlier, for every of our activities or actions we emit carbon. Now this emitted carbon is calculated and then the offsetting is carried out by you paying off, funding or supporting projects or schemes which removes the equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere. It’s simply just you cleaning after your carbon waste.

Carbon offsetting diagram
Source: UNEP

But, there’s more to this.

The funding project is where there’s a little problem. It’s one thing to fund a project and it’s another thing for the project to actually remove carbon from the atmosphere and not add more. It’s even a bigger thing for the project to lock the emission “permanently.”

Let’s look at tree planting for example. Planting trees is a good offsetting project but there’s a but.
The but here comes in the case of fires, pest and even the act of deforestation. With this, the tree is destroyed and you’ve not actually carried out the offsetting. More carbon is also released into the atmosphere from fires. This makes it not a 100% carbon offsetting project.

Now don’t get me wrong. Trees are really really important and you need to plant trees. But when it comes to offsetting, you need to consider more.

In other words, a good carbon offsetting project must:
Remove carbon.
Not contribute to more emissions.
Permanently lock carbon away.

Being able to identify such project makes carbon offsetting seem difficult. We need to fund the right projects so that we don’t offset the wrong way. While we may not find a 100% project, a 99.9% project could still pass for it.

What are these projects?

Funding renewable energy sources:
We’re aware that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change and what better way to reduce emissions than to switch to renewable energy sources.
Funding such projects is one way you can offset.

Methane capturing:
In this, projects are setup to capture methane gas from sources like landfills, animal waste, wastewater. Just like carbon dioxide, methane is also a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Capturing this gas is another way.

Planting trees:
This project could work if everything is done by the organization in charge to keep the trees and protect the forest. Everything needs to be done to prevent deforestation, fires and other processes that could lead to its failure.
This projects could also come in the form of paying a landowner the price of the timber to keep the trees. This is you protecting an already existing forest from danger.

Biogas digesters and clean cookstoves:
Projects like this build biogas digesters. These digesters convert organic waste into clean renewable energy, which is used to fuel clean cookstoves. These cookstoves are provided in rural communities and households to replace burning of coal and wood.

A woman using a biogas stove from a carbon offsetting project
Source: Cool Effect

Some of these offset projects don’t just aim at reducing carbon emissions, but they also improve quality of life especially in the rural areas.

When buying offsets or funding these projects, you need to be sure the organization or vendor is credible. Cool Effect has a wide range of offsetting projects you could check out and fund. Their projects are carefully selected.

Now this carbon offsetting thing doesn’t/ shouldn’t give you a “free license” to go around emitting carbon. Not because you’re funding a project that actually removes carbon doesn’t mean you should consciously pump more carbon into the atmosphere through burning of fossil fuels and the rest. It isn’t some sort of “free pass.” We still need to be responsible.

Remember, Climate Emergency!

We need to work hand in hand as these projects help where we can’t. While you’re reducing your emissions, you’re funding offsetting projects because let’s be real…we’re not going to be able to completely control our emissions. We’re working to reduce and when we reduce and offset at the same time, it will go a long way.

Reduce AND offset not reduce or offset.

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