What is carbon offsetting & is it really a good thing?

If you’re keeping up with new developments in the fight against climate change chances are you’ve come across the term carbon offsetting. We want you to understand exactly what this means, for businesses and individuals.

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is a mechanism that allows you to compensate for the emissions you produce through your lifestyle by funding climate projects which reduce or remove CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. When you offset your carbon footprint you are purchasing carbon offsets (or credits) which are a measurable and trackable way to compensate for your emissions. 1 carbon credit = 1 tonne of CO2e. For every tonne of CO2 you produce, you need 1 carbon offset (credit) to compensate for the emissions.

What are carbon offset projects?

There are a huge variety of carbon offset projects, some examples include; community wind farms, geothermal energy, replacing cooking stoves, or repairing water boreholes which reduces the need to burn wood. 
Lots of carbon offset projects are externally audited and certified so that you know exactly how much CO2 you are removing from the atmosphere.  They can vary in activity, size, location. You can see examples of the carbon offset projects trace funds here.

What is carbon offsetting in Australia?

Carbon offsetting in Australia means the project being funded is located in Australia or that as an Australian individual or business you are offsetting your Australian carbon footprint. 

The benefit of buying Australian credits is that the impact feels close to home. These carbon credits are often a little more expensive than some international credits as the cost to run the project is higher. At trace, we fund a biodiversity conservation project in the Annya State Forest in south-western Victoria. The project seeks to enhance biodiversity and permanently protect Victoria’s forests. This project is coupled with a wind farm in Taiwan so it has both the positive biodiversity impact and measurable carbon emission benefit.

Australian carbon footprints are generally quite high when compared with global averages due to the energy mix of the country, how far away it is from the rest of the world & the lifestyle. You can read more about carbon footprints here.
Dashboard photo showing how a user can track their impact

Offset your carbon footprint

Did you know you can reach net zero right now by offsetting your carbon footprint? trace handpicks projects that remove your carbon emissions from the atmosphere. You can track your impact on your own personal webpage and read about the impact you are having through our project stories.

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Where does the money actually go? 

When you buy a carbon offset your money goes towards a project focused on bringing about environmental change. Your money funds the existence or continuous running of this project. Take a look at some example projects here.

How can I trust the offsets really have an impact?

It is really important that the projects we fund at trace actually reduce or remove 1 tonne of CO2e per carbon credit sold. In order to ensure this we only buy externally certified & audited projects, the Gold Standard is a certification body that we like. 

The great thing about offsetting is that carbon offset projects have ancillary benefits outside the removal of carbon from the atmosphere - they often bring out social, economic and biodiversity benefits. Whilst we can place a price on the cost of the carbon offsets- there are other outcomes from these projects that are priceless! It brings about change and will shape our future.

At trace, we are involved with projects across Australia, Rwanda, Taiwan, Turkey and New Caledonia which are Gold Standard certified, all of the projects we handpick contribute to the UN’s sustainability goals too.

Why should you offset? Is it really a good thing to do?

Carbon emissions are an unavoidable part of our lifestyle. When it comes to combating climate change we can all make small (or large) changes to our lifestyle to reduce our carbon footprint but we appreciate that everyone has their limits.  

Offsets are a great way to immediately have an impact whilst you are working on making other changes to your lifestyle.  They provide an effective and efficient mechanism to compensate for those things that you just can’t give up. 

The term ‘greenwashing’ often appears in the discussion surrounding carbon offsetting. This term is often used when companies pay to offset their emissions without any effort to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Are trees an effective way to offset your carbon footprint?

We are often asked if tree planting is an effective way to offset your footprint. Trees are amazing and incredibly effective at sequestering carbon dioxide, but because every tree is different, it's difficult to accurately predict how much CO2 they remove each year and therefore we can't guarantee how much carbon they offset. This is why we use carbon offsets (or credits) to reliable and measurably offset your footprint then plant trees as an extra (because we love them!). So in short, trees can offset your footprint but it is hard to measure.

Thanks for reading!

Cat & Jo