Carbon Offsets 101

Written by  June 19, 2009

Where do I buy carbon offsets?

The number of offset providers seems to be increasing daily. Well-known organizations that sell credits online include My Climate and Climate Friendly. In Canada, WestJet has partnered with Vancouver-based Offsetters.

How much carbon do I really emit?

There are many online calculators that help you gauge this. For air travel, see www.terrapass.com, or benjerryus.myclimate.org. Or, to estimate your total carbon emissions, collect your utility bills and travel records and visit the US EPA website.

How much will it cost me?

Probably less than the GST on your ticket! When we looked into the cost of offsetting a flight from Toronto to Vancouver, we found it could cost anywhere from $2 to $15.

Why the difference?

The money paid for an offset credit goes to projects that reduce emissions—and different projects have different costs. While it can be tempting to choose the cheapest project, it may not be the most sustainable in the long run.

So how do I choose a provider?

It's a question that everyone is asking! At the moment, unfortunately, the rule is buyer beware. One effort to identify best practices, and help consumers make decisions, can be found here.

Does anyone really do this?

Everyone, baby (this week, anyway). Events like the Turin Winter Olympics and the World Cup are going carbon neutral. Celebrities including the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, and Dave Matthews Band are jumping on board. If you want to join the club, check out David Suzuki's guide to going carbon neutral.

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Andrea Gourgy

Originally from Montreal, Andrea has a hard time staying in one place. After gaining a BA from Western and a Masters in Journalism from the University of Southern California, Andrea hit the road and never looked back. She has worked professionally as a journalist in six different countries, and earned several travel writing awards in the process. Andrea joined the Verge team in 2006.

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