What is Carbon Offsetting and How Do You Start?

Updated: Apr 28




Delta Airlines recently committed to going carbon neutral by 2030, and will spend an estimated $1 billion making that happen in an effort to reduce the greenhouse gases it creates. Air travel is admittedly one of the worst things an individual can do for the climate, but it’s highly unlikely that people will stop traveling anytime soon. Enter carbon offsetting on an individual level. But how do you buy into and use offsets?


Offsetting is basically a method of canceling out your emissions by donating to a cause somewhere else worldwide. This can include investing in renewable energy, capturing emissions from the agriculture industry, or distributing clean cooking stoves in developing countries. 


While the best option remains reducing or altogether ending your air travel or reducing emissions at home, carbon offsetting can be a relatively cheap and effective way to cancel out your impact on the environment and support sustainability efforts across the globe.ctricity and natural gas you use in your home, or calculating it for a specific trip or event. 


A flight from New York to Los Angeles, for example, burns about 1.10 metric tons of carbon per passenger. This translates to a dollar value of approximately $3.26 for the one-way flight. This is the amount that you would donate to a carbon offsetting project, though most projects offsetting a single flight can range from $2-20.


There are endless projects aimed at offsetting emissions, but it’s important to find out how exactly the money is put to work when choosing a project, and to make sure there is data to back these projects up. A Pro Publica study examining a popular offsetting project aimed at reforestation in the Amazon Rainforest found that the venture had a less than satisfactory record of delivering emissions reductions and preserving forestland. 


While there are some bad actors, many carbon offsetting initiatives take things a step further by not only overseeing programs, but also contributing to sustainable development and better air quality worldwide. The Gold Standard, for example, publishes numerous reports and statistics on their economic and environmental impacts, as well as the effectiveness of their programs based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. 


While the best option remains reducing or altogether ending your air travel or reducing emissions at home, carbon offsetting can be a relatively cheap and effective way to cancel out your impact on the environment and support sustainability efforts across the globe.


If you are interested in carbon offsetting, there are a variety of online resources to learn about it. Remember that some companies selling offsets may not be effectively using the money, or the offsets may have happened regardless and the funding was irrelevant or inefficient. If you'd like advice or guidance while navigating the waters of carbon offsets, please reach out to us, and we'd be happy to help!


Email: contact@prettyplanet.org



Catherine is an avid supporter of environmentalism and sustainability at home and worldwide. She earned her bachelor's in political science and journalism, and loves to explore how social issues are shaped by law and politics. When she's not blogging for the Tangency Foundation, Catherine works in communications and public relations at a large, national law firm. You can find her on Twitter at @Catherine_Stolz.




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