Carbon Offsets

In line with the Foundation's effort to practice what it preaches, I mentioned yesterday our intention to purchase carbon offsets against all carbon emitted into the atmosphere for this past weekend’s Retreat. In early 2008, the Foundation started purchasing offsets for all staff travel including flying to meetings, conferences, site visits etc. Currently our travel agency purchases these offsets through an organization, Native Energy, in amounts equivalent to the amount of carbon emitted from travel. Based upon participants’ driving and flying to the retreat this year, we used the Native Energy’s Carbon Calculator to determine how much carbon was emitted as a result of our travel to Vermont. Staff calculated that Retreat travel emitted 8.399 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. It cost a total of $108 to purchase offsets for this carbon emission. For a detailed explanation of carbon emissions and how carbon offsets are growing as a strategy for reducing those emissions click here.

While carbon offsets are growing in popularity, the carbon market is new and there is not an official standard to follow, some carbon credits and retailers are of dubious value. The lack of regulation in carbon markets is spurring creativity and innovation in some areas; but, it has also created a “cowboy free-for-all” that requires caution from those attempting to purchase legitimate offsets. But there are many ways to look for credibility when purchasing offsets. Standards are emerging and being used in the voluntary carbon market. Third party certifications from the Rainforest Alliance and other organizations are also helping purchasers assess the value of carbon offsets in the market. Interested in checking for credibility? Check out a publication put out in 2006 by Clean Air Cool Planet (a New Hampshire based Overbrook grantee) called A Consumer’s Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers. The guide is comprehensive and digestible and provides valuable information about the different qualities of carbon offsets.

A special thanks to both Christine Terada and Carolynn Johnson at Overbrook who have helped with this process all year long!