Carbon Offsetting: How & Why To Start Offsetting Your Everyday Actions

With Max Song and Elliot David of Carbonbase

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How do you start your day? Unplug your phone, start the coffee maker, cook some breakfast, watch the news, maybe start some laundry?

It’s often hard to connect the dots between these everyday actions and climate change. But until we convert our energy systems to renewables, flipping the lights on, driving to work, or flying across the world unfortunately does mean contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news? You can neutralize your carbon emissions through carbon offsetting! Carbon offsetting is the process of paying to support a project that will sink as much carbon as you emit. Carbon offsetting encourages consumers to be accountable for their impact on the environment and pay the true cost of their goods and services. 

If the world of carbon offsetting is confusing to you, you’re not alone. Carbon offsetting can be an effective way to combat climate change and account for individual behaviors that would otherwise negatively impact the environment, and so it’s important to understand how it works and how to discern the best services available.

Carbonbase is a young platform that flips the overly complicated world of carbon offsetting into a digestible and frankly, fun experience for consumers. By taking a quick quiz, you can easily start your journey to carbon neutrality and be connected to impactful carbon-sinking projects around the globe. Cory spoke with Max and Elliot on the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast to learn more about the community they’re building to fight climate change.

What Is Carbon Offsetting? 

Carbon offsetting is the process of paying another institution to implement a project that removes a certain amount of your carbon dioxide or methane emissions from the environment by planting trees, funding renewable energy projects, or supporting improved sanitation or regenerative agriculture initiatives. 

The goal of carbon neutrality is to recognize that each action has a consequence on the environment. But, as easily as we can emit greenhouse gases (GHG), we can reduce and negate them. 

How Does Carbon Offsetting Work?

How Does Carbon Offsetting Work?You start by calculating the impact of the particular activity you’re looking to offset. Whether this is a one-off event like air travel or a recurring action like your daily commute, you’ll need to know the metric tonnes of CO2 you’re wanting to neutralize. Carbonbase makes it easy to calculate your impact through their simple carbon tracking quiz, where everyday actions are converted to CO2 metrics.

Then, you simply choose a project to allocate your funds. With Carbonbase, you can easily access a directory of verified projects, choose exactly where your money goes, and see what kind of impact you’re making. Customers can even set up a monthly subscription to offset routine actions!

Carbon Offsetting Projects

There are a few ways to offset individual or corporate carbon emissions. Here are a few examples of carbon offset projects that reduce the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere. 

  • Carbon Sequestration Projects: These actively restore land, encourage forestry, and facilitate tree planting to create carbon sinks. Reforestation improves the balance of the ecosystem and contributes to overall sustainability for local communities, while creating a safe place for carbon to live. 
  • Infrastructure Improvements: Energy efficiency is crucial to make the most of the electricity we’re using, no matter where it comes from. Projects like properly insulating homes can contribute to emissions reductions. 
  • Renewable Energy Projects: Investing in wind farms, biomass, or solar projects to create long-term solutions for energy reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. 

When you choose to offset through Carbonbase, you’ll have access to a group of thoughtfully chosen partners that meet the standards of the most trusted independent authorities in the business: The Gold Standard and Verra. The following three projects are just a handful of the many available through Carbonbase that actively improve lives, address the climate emergency, and address social inequity.

Examples of Carbon Offsets Projects

Forest Conservation in Brazil

Protect one of the world’s most precious resources in the world: The Amazon Rainforest. This project addresses three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by providing job security for more than 400 native families, preventing logging by project developers, and protecting habitats that support biodiversity. At its core, this project empowers local people to protect the rainforest while reducing 553,273 tonnes of CO2 per year. 

Solar Cooking in Chad

More than 230,000 Sudanese refugees have fled to Chad since the war in Darfur. Risking their lives, women and children often travel long distances just to secure wood for cooking on cookstoves. The CooKit solar cooker helps refugees by 1) eliminating the need for travel and 2) avoiding the fumes associated with woodfire cooking. On average, each cooker saves 1.3 tonnes of CO2 emission per year by replacing firewood use. Addressing four Sustainable Development Goals, this project promotes health and wellbeing, gender equity, clean and affordable energy, and employment opportunities for local communities.    

Safe Water in Uganda

Boiling water in Uganda is the most common way to ensure the water is clean enough for drinking. The collection of firewood and the long process of boiling water eats up substantial time and pollutes the air, while the risk of drinking unsanitary water leads to waterborne disease. The Safe Water Project supports the construction or rehabilitation of boreholes, which provide safe drinking water. Each borehole that is fixed or constructed in this project is saving 14,000 tonnes of wood. This project expertly addresses the clean water and sanitation, climate action, gender equality, and health goals of the UN. 

Corporate Carbon Offsetting 

There are two types of carbon offsetting for corporations: compliance and voluntary. In compliance offsetting, companies use carbon offsets to negate their total environmental impact or to meet the emissions cap as defined by regulations like the European Union Emissions Trading System. Regulations at this level adhere to a ‘cap and trade’ system, which allows companies to allocate carbon offsets in the cheapest possible way. 

Voluntary offsets are those facilitated by individuals and companies seeking to make the world a healthier place to be by their own volition. Some companies do a tree planting for each ecommerce order, partner with organizations to negate their impact, or implement a wide-range program of multiple carbon offsetting practices. 

Does Carbon Offsetting Work? 

There is some controversy over the efficacy of carbon offsetting. Some people (and companies) use carbon credits as a way to continue their polluting behavior while appearing sustainable. 

Let’s say Coca Cola decides to go 100% carbon neutral (which they’re actively working on). That’s great, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still one of the largest polluters in the world. While they might break even on their emissions, they’re still manufacturing millions of bottles each year, with most of the plastic getting in the ocean or landfills. Not only does this devastate our ecosystems, but this plastic pollution affects the health of humans as well.

Carbon offsets are only a piece of a larger puzzle. If carbon credits are used to aid in a transition to a more sustainable behavior or in addition to other sustainable practices, they’re doing their job. Unfortunately, corporations and individuals can use them as a shield to continue the behavior that contributes to global warming. If not used as part of a comprehensive plan, as one tool in a toolbox of actions, carbon offsets can merely be a bandaid over the emissions we desperately need to curb. 

For example, if an individual needs to commute in a gas guzzling car, they can use carbon offsets each month and offer to carpool with other employees or ride their bike more often in order to reduce their negative impact. Ideally, they might also be saving for a hybrid or electric car while paying for their carbon offsets. Once they’ve made the transition to a more sustainable option, carbon credits can be applied to another area of their life to improve, like aiding in the transition to consuming less meat or dairy or switching to solar energy

Ultimately, we hope for a world in which carbon offsets are only used for the most unavoidable of polluting actions, like flying or shipping (that is, until we get electric airplanes).

Carbonbase: The World’s First Carbon Neutral Community

Based in Hong Kong, Carbonbase makes it easy for everyday consumers to take action by offsetting their carbon emissions in the carbon market.

Unlike other websites that only serve to connect consumers with carbon neutral projects, Carbonbase has built a community of like minded people through their unique platform. For each activity they offset, users accumulate rewards that can be used to support Carbonbase’s small business partners. This methodology makes carbon reduction a lifestyle choice and a community-based endeavor with rewarding perks for the everyday consumer.

Carbonbase goes beyond the individual consumer by offering employers the opportunity to offset their employee’s emissions through the Green Employment Engagement Plan. Carbonbase is making it easier than ever for businesses across industries to align their ethics with their practices and lower their overall impact.

Max Song, Founder & CEO of Carbonbase

Max founded Carbonbase after recognizing that the climate change crisis is one that every single person can take steps to mitigate. Max has split his life between the United States and China since birth, and this unique way of living has only made it more clear to him that the climate issue isn’t isolated to any one area of the world.

Max’s expertise in venture building, investing, and data led him to create Carbonbase: the financial technology platform making it a no-brainer to purchase carbon credits.

I felt like the biggest problem we can try to solve within our generation is actually the climate problem. A unique aspect of the climate problem is that it’s fundamentally a global problem that requires cooperation across countries, across ethnic borders, socioeconomic class; it’s going to affect all of us.”

Elliot David, Business Development & Partnerships at Carbonbase

Originally from New York, Elliot’s wide breadth of experiences from the United States Department of Energy and even the Isreali Army prepared him well to enter Carbonbase in a strategic capacity. Core to Elliot’s role at Carbonbase is working with the carbon offset projects and nonprofits themselves, which is integral to the strength of the whole operation.

Elliot attended Tsinghua University in Beijing where he studied carbon management and met Max. He was brought onto the team in 2020 and is using his unique background and interest in combating climate change to solidify Carbonbase’s expertise in the world of carbon offsetting.

“I think all of our users, all consumers, should be incredibly suspicious about companies that are trying to go green. You know, you should fact check everybody.”

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Doing your own emission reductions can shrink your carbon footprint and reduce the amount you need to spend to become climate neutral. Try implementing one of these tips each month to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and invest in the future of the planet.

  • Meatless Mondays: Animal husbandry, or the cultivation of animals for meat and dairy products, accounts for 14.5% of annual human-related greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change and agriculture will always be intertwined, but by cooking plant-based meals, you can increase your nutrient intake while decreasing your carbon footprint. 
  • Check Your Electric Bill: Even if you’re a renter, your electric provider might have the option for you to switch from traditional power plants to a renewable option. Check your next bill for details! Also check out our guide on how to save energy at home! Your wallet and the earth will thank you!
  • Be a Conscious Consumer: Online retailers like A Good Company and Earth Hero provide climate compensated shipping, which affects your carbon footprint too! Plus, by purchasing thoughtfully made goods, you’re supporting environmentally friendly companies
  • Take a Stroll: Next time you get ready to jump in the car, think twice. Can you walk or bike to your destination? Is it possible to do a ride share or take public transportation?
  • Join Carbonbase: For the areas of your life where it’s difficult to make changes, join Carbonbase! With affordable options to offset your daily activities, you can feel good about shrinking your carbon footprint while joining a like minded community.

Closing: A Ton For A Ton 

Remember learning, ‘treat other people the way you want to be treated’? It’s the same with the planet and carbon. If we treat the planet well and participate in small sustainable actions to reduce our negative impact, the planet will respond positively.

Carbon offsetting turns everyday actions that might feel unavoidably polluting into tangible change for communities who need it. By using a platform like Carbonbase and setting a new carbon standard, you can rest easy knowing that you’re supporting projects in the world that battle climate change, further social equity, and address intersectional environmentalism.

Additional Resources & Links Mentioned from the Episode: 

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