How to Use Carbon Offsets to Reduce Travel Emissions

Climate science is incredibly complex, and managing the human impact on the planet is challenging while maintaining an adequate standard of living. 

That’s why The Clean Energy Life is dedicated to providing individuals with solutions that benefit their life and the planet. 

One market function developed as a solution to excess pollution is a program known as carbon offsetting. 

While slightly controversial, carbon offsetting enables sustainable travelers to reduce unavoidable emissions and invest in forward-thinking solutions that benefit the planet as a whole.

What Are Carbon Offsets?

Carbon offsets, often referred to as carbon credits, are a transferable commodity that allows individuals and corporations to purchase credits for projects that reduce carbon emissions. 

In essence, carbon offsets allow people to “offset” the carbon they’ve already released into the air by investing in projects designed to reduce or store carbon emissions. 


For example, many companies use carbon credits to fund reforestation or renewable energy projects, which reduce the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by significantly more than what that company already emits. 

The goal behind these commodities is to fund startups in the renewable and sustainable energy space, thus helping the world meet climate emissions goals for the future. 

How Do Carbon Offsets Work?

While the basic idea behind carbon credits is fairly simple, developing and distributing these credits is more complicated.

Carbon offsets are managed through “Projects,” which can issue one carbon credit for each metric ton of carbon or greenhouse gasses taken out of the atmosphere. So, for example, if it takes 31-46 trees to absorb one metric ton of carbon in a year, a reforestation project that plants over 3,000 trees may be able to offer up to 100 carbon credits or more. 

To issue a carbon credit, projects must be audited as much as three times by regulatory authorities within their country. 

Once issued, the carbon credit can be purchased directly, through a broker, or even an exchange. 

According to the latest data for 2023, carbon offsets can be worth as much as $40-$80 per credit.

Personal and Environmental Benefits of Carbon Offsets

Is Carbon Offsetting Worth It?

Unfortunately, there is some slight controversy over carbon credits, namely their abuse. With a finite amount of carbon offsetting projects available, relying exclusively on carbon offsetting to reach our climate goals places us at a major disadvantage.

Furthermore, carbon offsetting ignores the most important part of the clean and sustainable lifestyle: reducing your emissions. 

For this reason, carbon offsetting is a great tool we can add to our arsenal of clean energy strategies and use to fund renewable projects. But we shouldn’t rely exclusively on offsetting to reduce our carbon emissions.

Examples of Carbon Offset Projects

How to Buy Carbon Offsets

There are several ways to purchase carbon offsets, either directly or through a third-party broker. Let’s explore some options for individuals and corporations.

However, one question that remains is whether or not our carbon offsetting is actually making the impact we desire. One way to evaluate your carbon offset purchasing decisions is to use the AVID+ framework developed by these MIT professors.

The AVID+ framework (additional, verifiable, immediate, durable, and plus) creates a list of goals to establish whether a carbon offset is truly worth it. Additional entails that a project actually reduces emissions that would otherwise not be available. Verifiable ensures that you can track the amount of carbon being absorbed or reduced through a given project, while immediate puts your investment to direct and immediate use. Finally, durable provide a longer-term solution than simply planting trees that can be subject to wildfires. As a plus, we should also look for carbon offset projects that achieve other objectives, such as social justice or job creation.

Examples of Carbon Offset Projects

Using a rigid framework like AVID+ will reduce the number of choices you have, but put your money to better use. While it’s tempting to invest in tree farms and local agricultural projects that provide minimal gains, there are plenty of carbon offset projects that provide more sustainable results. 

BlocPower is an example of a company that optimizes existing commercial buildings to make them more energy efficient. Not only does BlocPower’s project provide immediate and verifiable results that would otherwise not have been achieved, but its project also has the potential to advance social justice objectives and boost local economies.

Similarly, companies like MidDay Tech offer crowdfunded solutions and plans to help place solar panels on residential roofs. The results are easily realized and trackable, while also advancing other goals. 

If you’re looking for more ways to travel sustainably or even cut your emissions at home, consider donating to a carbon offsetting project. While we think of carbon credits as a commodity, they are more akin to a charity donation than an asset for individuals. 

For more tips to reduce your emissions, level up your lifestyle by Upgrading to an Electric Vehicle and discover the benefits and practicality of an EV. 

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