A carbon offset is a greenhouse gas reduction that you use to balance out your own emissions. It’s a simple way to fight climate change by supporting projects that reduce emissions.
Technically, an offset is the legal right to claim a greenhouse gas reduction created by a particular project. If a project needs extra funds to get built and will reduce greenhouse gases beyond business-as-usual, the developer can sell the rights to the emissions reductions as offsets. The people who buy the offsets can retire them to cancel out their own emissions.
Offsets work because global warming is driven by the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Whether you reduce your own emissions by a ton or you support an offset project that reduces emissions by a ton, the net result is the same.
Offsets come in all shapes and sizes:
- They can come from any greenhouse gas – CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6 and HFCs/PFCs all contribute to global warming, so preventing any of them from entering the atmosphere can generate carbon offsets.
- They can focus on emissions sources (preventing emissions from entering the atmosphere), or emissions sinks (removing emissions from the atmosphere).
- They can come from a wide variety of project types, including building wind turbines, destroying landfill gas, replacing light bulbs, and planting trees. Anything that reduces emissions beyond business-as-usual could potentially be an offset project.
At Brighter Planet, we focus on community-scale projects in the US. All of our offset projects meet our rigorous offset policy and have been unanimously approved by our project selection committee. We automatically retire every offset we sell.