How Effective & Efficient Are Carbon Avoidance Offsets? Here Are the Facts

How Effective & Efficient Are Carbon Avoidance Offsets? Here Are the Facts

By
Grace Smoot

Read Time:21 Minutes

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Carbon avoidance is a method of carbon reduction whereby we prevent the further release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The effectiveness and efficiency of carbon avoidance offsets vary based on the specific type of avoidance. So, we had to ask: how effective and efficient are carbon avoidance offsets?

Carbon avoidance offsets can effectively strengthen our natural carbon sinks, reduce pollution, and help transition away from fossil fuels; they can efficiently and cost-effectively prevent further release of carbon – depending on each specific project.

Keep reading to find out how efficient and effective carbon avoidance offsets are, how you can offset your carbon footprint with them, what their pros and cons are, how they can mitigate climate change, and what better alternatives to carbon avoidance carbon offsets are. 

The Big Picture of the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Carbon Avoidance Offsets

Carbon offsets are reductions in carbon emissions that are used to compensate for carbon emissions occurring elsewhere. They are measured in tons of CO2 equivalents and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers, and trading platforms on what is known as the global carbon offset market.

Carbon offsets are reductions in carbon emissions that are used to compensate for carbon emissions occurring elsewhere. They are measured in tons of CO2 equivalents and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers, and trading platforms on what is known as the global carbon offset market.

Carbon offset: a way for a company or person to reduce the level of carbon dioxide for which they are responsible by paying money to a company that works to reduce the total amount produced in the world, for example by planting trees”

Oxford Dictionary

Carbon avoidance is the prevention of future carbon emissions via particular carbon offsets or via direct carbon reduction measures. It is one form of carbon reduction

Avoidance: not doing something; preventing something from existing or happening”

Oxford Dictionary

Carbon offsets that are commonly classified as carbon avoidance measures include:

Purchasing carbon avoidance offsets funds carbon emission reduction projects that prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere. It is a proactive, rather than a reactive, way of dealing with carbon emissions. 

How Do Carbon Avoidance Offsets WorkCarbon avoidance offsets are a specific type of carbon offset that focuses on preventing carbon emissions from entering our atmosphere.
Purchasing carbon avoidance offsets funds carbon emission reduction projects that prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere in the future. It is a proactive, rather than a reactive, way of dealing with carbon emissions. 
How Effective Are Carbon Avoidance Offsets at Mitigating Climate ChangeCarbon avoidance offsets help reduce deforestation and strengthen our natural carbon sinks
Carbon avoidance offsets can reduce methane emissions and other forms of pollution
Carbon avoidance offsets bolster energy security and help transition away from fossil fuels
Carbon avoidance offsets can lack additionality
Carbon avoidance offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing
How Efficient Are Carbon Avoidance Offsets at Reducing CO2 EmissionsCarbon avoidance offsets are proactive
Carbon avoidance offsets can be relatively cost-effective
Carbon avoidance offsets can be difficult to monitor and verify
Carbon avoidance offsets are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emission

Here’s How Effective and Efficient Carbon Avoidance Offsets Are

In terms of effectiveness, carbon avoidance offsets can help reduce deforestation and strengthen our natural carbon sinks, reduce methane emissions and other forms of pollution, bolster energy security, and help transition away from fossil fuels. However, they can lack additionality and they do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.

In terms of efficiency, carbon avoidance offsets are proactive and relatively cost-effective; however, they can also be difficult to monitor and verify and they are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions.

How Effective Are Carbon Avoidance Offset Programs at Reducing CO2 Emissions

Effectiveness involves completing a task with a desired outcome, typically a successful one. 

Effective: producing the result that is wanted or intended; producing a successful result

Oxford Dictionary

In terms of effectiveness, carbon avoidance offsets can help reduce deforestation and strengthen our natural carbon sinks, reduce methane emissions and other forms of pollution, bolster energy security, and help transition away from fossil fuels. However, they can lack additionality and they do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Help Reduce Deforestation And Strengthen Our Natural Carbon Sinks

Carbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, energy efficiency, and agriculture protect forest and grassland ecosystems and their ability to act as carbon sinks. 

Carbon can be stored in vegetation (forests), soils, and oceans, which are commonly referred to as our carbon sinks

Carbon Sink: a forest, ocean, or other natural environment viewed in terms of its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Oxford Dictionary 

REDD+ offsets protect rainforests, and rainforests play a vital role in regulating our climate. The roughly 3 billion acres of rainforest found on our planet are capable of absorbing 2.4 billion tons of CO2 every year. They help absorb some of the carbon emissions we burn from fossil fuels and prevent them from entering our atmosphere. 

In addition, energy-efficient cookstoves and water filtration projects reduce the demand for wood, which in turn reduces deforestation. This is important in the fight against climate change because globally, forests act as a carbon sink capable of absorbing a net 7.6 billion tons (bt) of CO2 per year.

Lastly, avoided grassland conversion projects protect grassland biomes, which are known to have dark, fertile, nutrient-rich soils due to the decay of branched, grass roots. When grasslands become degraded, the soils re-emit carbon, which is converted to CO2 in the atmosphere. Protecting these ecosystems prevents the release of carbon.

In short, REDD+, energy efficiency, and some agricultural offsets can reduce deforestation and reinforce our terrestrial carbon sinks, which are capable of absorbing billions of tons of CO2 every year. 

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Reduce Methane Emissions and Other Forms of Pollution

Carbon avoidance offsets involving waste management, energy efficiency, and agriculture reduce methane (CH4) emissions and combat land, air, and water pollution. 

Waste management and farm power agricultural offsets can reduce CH4 emissions via CH4 capture, combustion, or conversion to energy projects

Some of the most common waste management and farm power agricultural carbon offset projects involve landfill or livestock gas capture, combustion, or conversion to energy. 

CO2 and CH4 comprise 90-98% of landfill gasses, and agriculture is the predominant source of methane (CH4) emissions, with livestock alone accounting for approximately 32% of human-caused CH4 emissions.

CH4 is 25 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in our atmosphere, which exacerbates global warming. Both waste management and energy efficiency offset projects prevent CH4 from entering our atmosphere, and because CH4 is more potent than CO2, removing it is a quick way to slow the rate of global warming, at least in the short term.

Waste management and energy efficiency carbon offsets can also target land, air, or water pollution, depending on the project. 

Every year, we contaminate the biosphere by dumping over 2 billion tons of waste including millions of tons of electronic waste, hazardous chemicals, food, and plastic. Waste management carbon offset projects can help reduce pollution because they aim to reduce the amount of waste entering our landfills and ecosystems.

Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3-4 million premature deaths occur annually due to smoke generated by inefficient cooking, heating, and lighting mechanisms. When made to be more energy efficient, these mechanisms can reduce the amount of total air pollution, improving overall air quality and human health as a result. 

In short, carbon avoidance offsets involving waste management, energy efficiency, and agriculture can reduce various types of pollution including CH4 and land/air/water pollution.

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Bolster Energy Security And Help Transition Away From Fossil Fuels

Carbon avoidance offsets involving waste management and energy efficiency can help reduce reliance on biomass and fossil fuels, leading to increased energy security and energy independence. 

Waste management offsets such as landfill gas conversion to energy use waste gasses to generate renewable electricity. And energy-efficient mechanisms use less energy than traditional mechanisms to perform the same task. 

Both types of projects reduce overall energy demand, which in turn reduces reliance on imports of biomass fuels or fossil fuels (e.g., coal, oil, and natural gas)

For example, energy-efficient cookstoves and water filtration projects provide uninterrupted access to energy and clean water, negating the need for a constant supply of woodfuels. And landfill gas capture and conversion to energy mechanisms use surplus waste gasses to generate electricity and steam, reducing the need to import fossil fuels.

Being able to produce your own energy without relying on other entities increases energy security, which is reliable, affordable access to fuels and energy sources. And increased energy security fosters energy independence, which can aid in the transition away from fossil fuels and towards lower carbon options.

In short, carbon avoidance offsets involving waste management and energy efficiency bolster energy security and can foster energy independence.

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Lack Additionality

Carbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, waste management, and energy efficiency can lack additionality due to uncertainty in determining baselines and increasing demand for projects.

To be beneficial, REDD+, waste management, and energy-efficiency carbon offsets must be additional. This means the carbon emissions reductions would not have occurred without any outside interventions. 

The additionality of REDD+ projects cannot be measured exactly, because determining the baseline, or the business-as-usual carbon emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation in the absence of efforts to reduce those emissions, cannot be measured exactly. Because we cannot know exactly what would happen to a specific forest in the absence of a REDD+ project, it is impossible to calculate the baseline with absolute certainty. 

In addition, waste management and energy-efficiency offsets are often not additional because many projects receiving revenue now would have been built regardless. 

The global waste management market is expected to grow to $2.5 billion by 2030 due to the increasing rate at which and the amount of waste we generate annually. As the market grows, there has been a push for waste management projects involving food rescue, landfill gas capture, and recycling. The large demand for waste management in general means that the infrastructure could have been built independently of waste management carbon offsets.

One of the main pros of energy efficiency is lower energy costs, which can drive market expansion. For example, since 2020, global markets have contributed approximately $1 trillion towards energy efficiency-related practices involving buildings, transportation, infrastructure, and electric vehicles. The large demand for energy-efficient practices, in general, means that the infrastructure could have been built independently of energy-efficiency carbon offsets. 

In short, additionality is not guaranteed with REDD+, waste management, and energy-efficiency offsets.

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Do Not Reduce Your Own Carbon Emissions

Carbon avoidance offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing. 

In general, one of the main limitations of carbon offsetting is that purchasing a carbon offset does not directly reduce your carbon footprint. It only makes others reduce their carbon footprint to compensate for your carbon footprint. 

If emissions are only offset and not reduced from the source, this could lead to greenwashing, when the consumer is deceived into thinking they are offsetting their emissions but in reality, they are not. Companies accused of greenwashing either invest in non-verified credits, do not prioritize in-house emissions reductions, or double-count carbon credits. Or sometimes, all of the above.

In short, because carbon avoidance offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, they could lead to greenwashing.

How Efficient Are Carbon Avoidance Offset Programs at Mitigating Climate Change

Efficiency involves performing a task while using the least amount of resources and producing the least amount of waste as possible.

Efficient: working in a way that does not waste a resource (= something valuable such as fuel, water, or money)

Cambridge Dictionary

In terms of efficiency, carbon avoidance offsets are proactive and relatively cost-effective; however, they can also be difficult to monitor and verify and they are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions.

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Are Proactive

Carbon avoidance offsets cut emissions at their source, making them a proactive way of dealing with emissions.

Carbon avoidance is a proactive, rather than reactive, way of dealing with emissions. By eliminating emissions at the source, we cut down on fossil fuel (e.g., coal, oil, and natural gas) usage. 

The main difference between carbon avoidance and carbon removal, the other main method of carbon reduction, is that carbon avoidance seeks to prevent carbon from being emitted in the first place. Whereas carbon removal removes the carbon that has already been emitted from our atmosphere.

In short, carbon avoidance cuts emissions at the source, seeking to prevent carbon from being emitted in the first place.

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Be Relatively Cost-Effective

Carbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, waste management, energy efficiency, and agriculture are some of the most cost-effective methods of carbon emission reduction.

Coupling REDD+, waste management, energy efficiency, and agricultural offset projects with carbon offsets could help finance the arduous task of reducing atmospheric CO2 levels. Especially since these offsets are typically more cost-effective than other categories of offsets. 

In short, carbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, waste management, energy efficiency, and agriculture are relatively cost-effective when compared to other methods of carbon emission reduction.

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Be Difficult To Monitor And Verify

The decentralized nature and many different types of energy-efficiency and agricultural carbon avoidance offsets can make standardization and monitoring difficult.

Unlike carbon removal, where you can track, calculate, and record a set amount of carbon being removed from the atmosphere, carbon avoidance can be difficult to quantify because it involves not putting carbon into the atmosphere. 

Energy-efficient practices promote energy decentralization, where power is generated at or near locations where it will be used. And although this decreases the need to transport energy and generates environmental benefits, it can also make project standardization and monitoring difficult.

By nature, centralized solutions are easier to keep track of. But there are different standards for different types of energy-efficiency practices. Appliances, lighting, buildings, cooking, and fuels are held to different standards, making it difficult to standardize energy efficiency as one singular entity. 

Agricultural emissions themselves are also difficult to measure and manage because there are hundreds of millions of farmers around the world, most of which are farming small plots of land. In order to exact change on a global scale, we would have to incorporate agricultural offset practices such as biochar, agroforestry, and methane capture on a massive scale and for hundreds of years into the future. This would be difficult to do both socially and economically.

In addition, the fact that there are multiple types of agricultural carbon offsets makes them difficult to standardize, verify, and monitor. 

Carbon Avoidance Offsets Are Not Yet Scaled To Compensate For Our Global Emissions 

Waste management and agricultural carbon avoidance offsets are not yet scaled to compensate for the billions of tons of GHG we emit annually. 

Carbon offsets in general are currently not sufficient to compensate for all of our carbon emissions. We emit more than 37 billion tons of carbon annually, but carbon offset credits for only ~1 billion tons of CO2 have been listed for sale on the voluntary market. The number of sellers also exceeds the number of buyers by about 600-700 million tons.

Because waste management and agricultural offsets are only a small subsection of the larger carbon offset market, they are also inadequate in terms of offsetting our global emissions.

 Experts predict the world’s population will increase by 2 billion people in the next 30 years, which means the rate of waste generation and subsequent GHG emissions from waste will continue to increase. We already generate over 2 billion tons of waste including electronics (e-waste), hazardous chemicals, food, and plastic. 

And in addition to the 37+ billion tons of CO2 we emit every year, we emit approximately 570 million tons of CH4, a significant amount of which comes from agriculture. As the world’s population increases, there will be more mouths to feed. Therefore, agricultural production and subsequent GHG emissions from agriculture will continue to increase. 

In short, waste management and agricultural offsets occupy a small part of the carbon offset market and are not yet scaled to compensate for the billions of tons of GHGs we emit.

How Could You Offset Your Own Carbon Footprint With Carbon Avoidance Offsets

The market for carbon offsets was small in the year 2000, but by 2010 it had already grown to represent nearly $10 billion worldwide. The voluntary carbon offset market (VCM) is where everyday consumers can purchase carbon offsets to offset their carbon emissions. 

The Ecosystem Marketplace predicts the VCM can grow to $50B by the year 2050. And because carbon avoidance is a proactive, cost-effective way of dealing with carbon emissions, those offsets are predicted to make up a larger share of the market.

Related: Are you interested in learning more about the best carbon avoidance offsets? Check out the full article here: “Best Carbon Avoidance Offsets
Carbon Avoidance Offset CompanyQuick Facts
TerrapassAbout: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified REDD+, waste management, and agricultural projects.
Costs: $16.51-$17.63 per 1,000kg of CO2
Native EnergyAbout: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified REDD+, waste management, and agricultural projects.
Costs: $18 per 1,000 kg of CO2
CarbonfundAbout: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified REDD+, waste management, and energy-efficiency projects.
Costs: $16.25-$17.16 per 1,000kg of CO2 for individuals, $390-$1,560 per year for small businesses, determined after initial contact for large businesses 
EcologiAbout: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified REDD+, waste management, and energy-efficiency projects.
Costs: $6.04 per 1,000 kg of CO2 offset
REDD.plusAbout: Carbon offset purchases support UNFCCC-verified REDD+ projects around the globe. REDD.plus is a central registry and exchange for REDD+ Result Units, a type of carbon credit. 
Costs: $16 per ton of CO2 
CoreZeroAbout: Purchases support waste management projects including food rescue, upcycling, waste-to-energy, and composting.
Costs: Costs are determined after initial contact
DelAguaAbout: Purchases support the Rwandan clean cookstoves energy-efficiency carbon offset project.
Costs: Costs are determined after initial contact
Wildlife WorksAbout: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified carbon offset projects including The Kasigau Corridor, Mai Ndombe, and Southern Cardamom REDD+ projects in Kenya, Cambodia, and Colombia respectively.
Costs: $20 per ton of CO2
GreenTechAbout: They take plastic (e.g., plastic bottles) and sort, grind, wash, and process it into sustainable recycled flakes to make products (e.g., PET flakes, PET straps, and r-PET granules).
Costs: $40 per 1,000kg of CO2
South PoleAbout: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified waste management and energy-efficiency projects.
Costs: Costs are determined after initial contact

What Are The 6 Pros and 4 Cons of Carbon Avoidance Offsets

Carbon avoidance offsets are a proactive, relatively cost-effective way of dealing with CO2 emissions which can protect existing carbon sinks, bolster energy security, help transition away from fossil fuels, and reduce various forms of pollution. Carbon avoidance offsets also allow us to reduce carbon emissions in ways we wouldn’t be able to accomplish individually.

Carbon avoidance offsets can lack additionality, standardization, and monitoring, and are not yet scaled to compensate for our global waste emissions. They also do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.

Related: Are you interested in learning more about the pros and cons of carbon avoidance offsets? Check out the full article here: “Carbon Avoidance Offsets: All 6 Pros and 4 Cons Explained

What Are the 6 Pros of Carbon Avoidance Offsets

Carbon avoidance offsets have various pros that make them effective at proactively reducing carbon emissions.

Pros of Carbon Avoidance OffsetsQuick Facts
#1: Carbon avoidance offsets are proactiveCarbon avoidance is a proactive, rather than reactive, way of dealing with emissions. By eliminating emissions at the source, we cut down on fossil fuel (e.g., coal, oil, and natural gas) usage. 
#2: Carbon avoidance offsets can protect existing carbon sinksCarbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, energy efficiency, and agriculture protect forest and grassland ecosystems and their ability to act as carbon sinks.
#3: Carbon avoidance offsets can be relatively cost-effectiveREDD+, waste management, energy efficiency, and agricultural carbon offsets are some of the most cost-effective methods of carbon emission reduction.
#4: Carbon avoidance offsets can bolster energy security and help transition away from fossil fuelsWaste management and energy-efficiency projects reduce overall energy demand, which in turn reduces reliance on imports of biomass fuels or fossil fuels. Being able to produce your own energy without relying on other entities increases energy security, and increased energy security fosters energy independence.
#5: Carbon avoidance offsets can reduce methane emissions and other forms of pollutionWaste management and farm power agricultural offsets can reduce CH4 emissions via CH4 capture, combustion, or conversion to energy projects. They can also target land, air, or water pollution, depending on the project.
#6: Carbon avoidance offsets allow us to reduce carbon emissions in ways we wouldn’t be able to accomplish individuallyCarbon avoidance offsets allow us to reduce emissions from activities where sustainable alternatives are not yet widely available. 

What Are the 4 Cons of Carbon Avoidance Offsets

Understanding the drawbacks of carbon avoidance offsets is important when implementing this strategy on a large scale in order to mitigate climate change.

4 Cons of Carbon Avoidance OffsetsQuick Facts
#1: Carbon avoidance offsets can lack additionalityCarbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, waste management, and energy efficiency can lack additionality due to uncertainty in determining baselines and increasing demand for projects
#2: Carbon avoidance offsets can lack standardization and monitoringThe decentralized nature and many different types of energy-efficiency and agricultural carbon avoidance offsets can make standardization and monitoring difficult.
#3: Carbon avoidance offsets are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions Because waste management and agricultural offsets are only a small subsection of the larger carbon offset market, they are inadequate in terms of offsetting our global emissions.
#4: Carbon avoidance offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashingIf emissions are only offset and not reduced from the source, this could lead to greenwashing, when the consumer is deceived into thinking they are offsetting their emissions but in reality, they are not. 

How Can Carbon Avoidance Offsets Help Mitigate Climate Change

Climate change is a severe and long-term consequence of fossil fuel combustion. Carbon avoidance offsets can help mitigate climate change because they cut emissions at their source, which is a proactive way of dealing with carbon emissions. If left untreated, these emissions can remain in our atmosphere for tens of thousands of years and exacerbate the negative effects of climate change.

How is Climate Change Defined

Climate change is arguably the most severe, long-term global impact of fossil fuel combustion. Every year, approximately 33 billion tons (bt) of CO2 are emitted from burning fossil fuels. The carbon found in fossil fuels reacts with oxygen in the air to produce CO2

Climate change: changes in the earth’s weather, including changes in temperature, wind patterns and rainfall, especially the increase in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere that is caused by the increase of particular gasses, especially carbon dioxide.

Oxford Dictionary

Atmospheric CO2 fuels climate change, which results in global warming. When CO2 and other air pollutants absorb sunlight and solar radiation in the atmosphere, it traps the heat and acts as an insulator for the planet. Since the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s temperature has risen a little more than 1 degree Celsius (C), or 2 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Between 1880-1980 the global temperature rose by 0.07C every 10 years. This rate has more than doubled since 1981, with a current global annual temperature rise of 0.18C, or 0.32F, for every 10 years. 

As outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, we must cut current GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050

How Do Carbon Offsets Generally Help Mitigate Climate Change

Levels of carbon in our atmosphere that cause climate change have increased as a result of human emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750. The global average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today registers at over 400 parts per million. Carbon offsets can help prevent these levels from increasing even more.

When you hear the words “carbon offset”, think about the term “compensation”. Essentially, carbon offsets are reductions in GHG emissions that are used to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere

Carbon offsets that meet key criteria and verified project standards, are additional and permanent, and are part of projects that are carried out until the end of their lifespan have the best chance of reducing carbon emissions and therefore reducing climate change. 

When we offset CO2 we also slow the rate of global temperature rise, which in turn minimizes the effects of climate change. 

How Do Carbon Avoidance Offsets Specifically Help Mitigate Climate Change

Carbon avoidance offsets proactively deal with CO2 emissions. Rather than removing emissions once they have already been emitted, carbon avoidance focuses on approaches that prevent CO2 from being released in the first place.

As outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, we must cut current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Carbon avoidance is important to meet these targets because the more we avoid carbon, the less we emit into our atmosphere. 

What Are Better Alternatives to Carbon Avoidance Offsets

If used correctly, carbon avoidance offsets can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits beyond reducing carbon emissions. They have the potential to instigate meaningful environmental change and begin to reverse some of the effects of climate change. 

However, we can’t let this method be a guilt-free way to reduce carbon emissions. Avoidance carbon offsets must be used in conjunction with direct carbon reduction measures because these measures directly reduce your carbon footprint.

These reduction measures don’t have to involve drastic changes either. Actions that may seem small can have a big impact because those small changes add up! You can reduce your carbon footprint in three main areas of your life: household, travel, and lifestyle. 

Reduce your household carbon footprint:

Reduce your travel carbon footprint:

  • Walk or bike when possible: The most efficient ways of traveling are walking, bicycling, or taking the train. Using a bike instead of a car can reduce carbon emissions by 75%. These forms of transportation also provide lower levels of air pollution.

Reduce your lifestyle carbon footprint:

  • Switch to renewable energy sources: The six most common types of renewable energy are solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biomass energy. They are a substitute for fossil fuels that can reduce the effects of global warming by limiting global carbon emissions and other pollutants.
  • Recycle: Recycling uses less energy and deposits less waste in landfills. Less manufacturing and transportation energy costs means fewer carbon emissions generated. Less waste in landfills means less CH4 is generated.
  • Eat less meat and dairy: Meat and dairy account for 14.5% of global GHG emissions, with beef and lamb being the most carbon-intensive. Globally, we consume much more meat than is considered sustainable, and switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet could reduce emissions. 
  • Take shorter showers: Approximately 1.2 trillion gallons of water are used each year in the United States just for showering purposes, and showering takes up about 17% of residential water usage. The amount of water consumed and the energy cost of that consumption are directly related. The less water we use the less energy we use. And the less energy we use, the less of a negative impact we have on the environment.

Although avoidance offsets are proactive, they are still an indirect way of reducing emissions, meaning they alone will not be enough to reduce global carbon emissions significantly. Direct measures of emission reductions, such as reducing individual energy use and consumption, are better alternatives to avoidance offsets. 

Related: Are you interested in learning why reducing your carbon footprint is so important? Check it out in this article here: “4 Main Reasons Why Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Is Important

Final Thoughts

In terms of effectiveness, carbon avoidance offsets can help reduce deforestation and strengthen our natural carbon sinks, reduce methane emissions and other forms of pollution, bolster energy security, and help transition away from fossil fuels. However, they can also lack additionality and they do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.

In terms of efficiency, carbon avoidance offsets are proactive and relatively cost-effective; however, they can also be difficult to monitor and verify and they are not yet scaled to compensate for our global emissions.

Carbon offsets can instigate meaningful change, but they should not be seen as the only solution to climate change. When used in conjunction with direct CO2 reduction measures, carbon offsetting can be much more effective. We should reduce our own carbon footprint as much as possible first, and only then choose the most effective carbon avoidance offsets.

Stay impactful,

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