New to carbon offsetting? Start here

Monday, June 7, 2021

Is carbon offsetting cheating, and four other questions answered to get you started on your journey to carbon negative.

1. What is carbon offsetting?

We all have a carbon footprint as a result of living in the modern world. When we eat, shop and travel, we cause emissions. Or if we are a company, business activities such as commuting, shipping, electricity generation, industrial processes, and agriculture contribute to our corporate carbon footprint.

In order to avoid climate catastrophe and reach the climate targets set in the Paris Agreement, we need to radically reduce our carbon emissions. But even if we cut all emissions today, there would still be excess carbon left in the atmosphere. This is why we must compensate, by supporting projects that reduce or remove emissions elsewhere. 

Carbon offsetting is about removing the emissions we create from the atmosphere – or better yet, removing even more than we emit.

2. Carbon offsetting is cheating, right?

You may have heard some people claim that carbon offsetting is cheating and yes, sometimes they are right. Sustainability is a growing trend, and so are all kinds of climate claims and marketing campaigns. That is why there is, unfortunately, plenty of greenwashing going on.

But simply labelling carbon offsetting as cheating is seriously underestimating its potential. When carbon offsetting is done well, it can have a big impact on climate, biodiversity, and human rights.

To ensure the effectiveness of carbon offsetting, it is important to support projects that are guided by science and executed with integrity. Then nobody is cheating anyone.

3. Does carbon offsetting mean that we can continue as usual? 

No, it doesn't. 

Compensation is sometimes cheaper and easier than reducing emissions, which is why it is often criticized as providing an excuse to continue our destructive habits.

But in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to not only cut down our emissions, but also offset more than we emit. Going carbon neutral is not enough, and here is why.

We already exceeded the safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 1987. Even if we cut emissions down to zero today, we would still need to remove that excess carbon from the atmosphere. We need to all become carbon negative.

It is the same as with plastic. Yes, we need to stop letting more plastic get into the ocean, but we also need to invest in ways to clean up the waste that is already littering our oceans.

4. Compensating is voluntary, why should I do it? 

The climate crisis is undoubtedly the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. But it will take time and effort to stop creating greenhouse gases completely. Compensating is a way of taking responsibility for these unavoidable emissions – now.

We need a paradigm shift. We should collectively accept that we have already reached the maximum amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and commit to removing at least the amount of emissions we create. 

Compensating should be considered an investment, not a cost. Understanding your carbon footprint can be the catalyst for making impactful changes to reduce those emissions. When done well, carbon offsetting can also be an efficient way to invest in our future.

So yes, compensating is voluntary, but it is also a very good idea for those emissions that can't yet be avoided.

5. How do I get started?

You have already started because you are educating yourself about the subject, which is great! 

If you are an individual, you can also calculate your current carbon footprint by downloading our app (available in most European countries). Once you see and understand where your emissions are created, it is easier to make small lifestyle changes that have a big impact. Our app also includes climate missions to help you help the climate! To go even further, you can sign up for one of our subscription plans to begin your journey to carbon negative.

If you are a small business, you can start your free 14-day Compensate Plus trial (available in the EU) to calculate, track, and compensate your company’s carbon emissions. We created it so a business of any size can easily take climate action.

If you represent a larger organization, contact our team for a more tailored compensation solution – made just for you.

For more on offsetting, you can visit our FAQ , or download our white paper for a deep dive into the carbon market.

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