Holiday Gift Guide: Give the Gift of Carbon Offsets


This year, that climate guilt in the form of “flight shaming” set in.  Many people started thinking hard about their own carbon footprints after climate activist Greta Thunberg made headlines by sailing to the large UN climate meetings in a solar-powered boat rather than flying to them and by taking trains to events around Europe.  And when the British royals took a private jet they also made news when they defended the action by saying they had bought carbon offsets for the trip.  So we suggest that one way to lower the climate stress caused by the lack of low carbon travel alternatives is to give the gift of carbon offsets.

Where To Purchase Offsets:  There are many organizations that sell offsets so, by all means, do your research (you can start with this guide) and find the one that best suits your recipient(s).  The UNFCCC has a carbon offset program that funds projects with Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), a type of carbon offset measured in tons of CO2 equivalent. The CERs are available for everyone to purchase to offset emissions or in support of the projects. The full contributions go directly to the projects.  To learn more about the UN’s program called “Climate Neutral Now” click here.  Another one that has been around for a long time and is well-regarded is called “terrapass,” which works with businesses as well as individuals that want to offset their carbon emissions.  And to make sure you are getting your money’s worth, check out the “gold standard” for offsets, here.

Why I Like This Gift: This gift is a great way to make the recipient happy by purchasing credits from an offset project that will be meaningful to him/her/them, and will also help non-profits fund important climate projects that make a difference by literally taking carbon out of the atmosphere.  And you can scale the gift to suit the recipient or your budget.  Most carbon offset calculators allow you to look at the footprint of specific activities — you can offset an activity or all activities for a certain period of time.  And if you buy the offsets from a reputable organization, you can rest assured that the money will be well spent.

Why This Matters:  Purchasing carbon offsets is something we can all do — it does not require government action or involve politics that might raise issues within families that do not all agree.  Offsetting carbon emissions is critical to getting to carbon neutrality because the total elimination of fossil fuels in the near or medium-term is not likely to happen.  It is not a silver bullet, but carbon capture is a key element of any strategy that will result in sufficient emissions reductions to ward off the worst impacts of climate change.

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