A 5 Minute Guide to Carbon Offsets

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Global climate strikes, United Nations reports, extreme weather events — the climate crisis is undeniably reaching into every aspect of the average American’s day-to-day life. The question lingering in most (reasonable) minds is “What can I do?”

The carbon footprint of an average American is 16.6 tonnes. To help visualize that impact, one tonne = one metric ton of greenhouse gas, which equates to the size of a two-story house. While taking actions such as eating less red meat, limiting air travel, and switching to renewable energy are great steps to reduce your carbon footprint, each of us has unavoidable emissions remaining.

That’s where we come in. We are Cool Effect, a non-profit dedicated to reducing carbon emissions around the world by allowing individuals, businesses, organizations, and universities to create a tangible impact on climate change. Cool Effect works to fund the highest quality carbon reduction projects that are verifiably and measurably reducing global warming emissions.

Our story began with a trip to Honduras — our founders, Dee and Richard Lawrence, and their daughter, Skye Lawrence, were on a volunteer mission to help communities in Honduras rebuild after Hurricane Mitch. When the Lawrences discovered the amount of smoke inhalation women and children were enduring from traditional wood-fired stoves, they set out on a mission to not only solve a serious health issue but an environmental issue. They wanted to create a better cookstove and founded Proyecto Mirador.

Proyecto Mirador is a carbon reduction project that installs fuel-efficient wood-burning cookstoves in the place of the traditional stoves. This not only reduces the amount of carbon emitted — both through the burning itself but also the cutting down of trees for wood — but it also has health and socio-economic benefits for the surrounding community. The Lawrences quickly realized that by registering Proyecto Mirador as a carbon reduction project, they would be able to create a greater impact through funding from carbon offsets.

A carbon offset is a measurement of greenhouse gas emissions reduced from a project or entity, that can be sold to compensate for emissions created somewhere else in the world. Dee and Richard Lawrence found that there were many other quality carbon reduction projects around the world that deserved a platform, in tandem with individuals looking to make a difference. Cool Effect was created as a platform to provide these passionate individuals and businesses with an easy-to-understand, tangible way to make an immediate, measurable impact in the fight against climate change. There are a few things to look for when you are purchasing carbon offsets:

Additionality: An additional project means that the only way the project would exist is because of the funding from carbon finance. For example, if a landfill is legally required to capture methane, it would not be an additional project, because the landfill was required to capture the methane anyway.

Transparency: The best way to assure a carbon offset is legitimate is to look for confirmation that it is additional, by asking for due diligence documents and transparency in pricing. Understand where your money is going when you purchase the offset and how much is going to any broker or middleman. Non-profits like Cool Effect offer full transparency on where your money is going, while other carbon offset brokers tend to hide fees and can make it harder to verify the legitimacy of projects.

Verification: It’s important to ensure you are purchasing from a verified source. Every project on Cool Effect’s platform is triple-verified, starting with a review and verification from one of the world’s major carbon standards — such as the Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, and the Climate Action Reserve — and subsequently, verified against a second set of international standards, such as those required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and an internal review with a long checklist of criteria (full list of the verification process is available here).

When it comes to offsetting, we recommend that both individuals and businesses do everything in their power to reduce their carbon footprint and turn to carbon offsets as a tool to compensate for the remainder. That being said, simple ways you can make an immediate impact are by offsetting air travel through our Travel Offset Tool or offsetting your individual 2019 footprint (~16.6 tonnes) through a project of your choice.

While carbon offsets are not the one singular answer to fighting the climate crisis, it is a way to make an immediate, tangible impact. Ready to step up and make a difference? Join us in the fight against climate change now.