We can safely say that to fight climate change and protect our planet, and we need to reduce carbon emissions. According to reports, we pump 35 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere yearly. Carbon offsetting is a powerful way to reduce your carbon footprint and make a big difference.
According to climate change facts from accredited research organizations, human activity is 95% likely to have caused the impacts of global warming, from extreme weather to increased fires, flooding, and biodiversity loss we are currently experiencing.
Today, there are numerous impactful carbon offset programs all over the world that you can choose from. However, navigating through the world of carbon offset programs may be quite complex. In this article, we will look at what carbon offset programs are, the benefits of investing in carbon offset programs, and a list of some of the best carbon offset programs that you can choose from.
We engage in many activities that leave an environmental footprint, from driving our cars to traveling, shipping, and consuming day-to-day goods.
A carbon offset program carries out various environmental activities to offset carbon and become as close to carbon neutrality as possible.
Carbon offsets are a credit that individuals and organizations can buy to compensate for their carbon footprint or emissions. Companies, initiatives, and projects that specialize in removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere produce these carbon offsets.
They then sell carbon offsets to companies that emit carbon into the atmosphere. In other words, we can say that carbon offsetting refers to investing in carbon offset projects as opposed to actually reducing your emissions. Typically, these carbon offset projects include carbon capture, clean water projects, renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements, and so on.
When used correctly, beyond reducing emissions, carbon offsets are a great way to provide environmental, economic, and social benefits and constitute significant positive environmental change.
To ensure that carbon offset programs offset carbon emissions, carbon project standards ensure quality, transparency, and verification of offset projects. As you search for the best carbon offset program, looking for these carbon offset project standards is important. Here are some of the major ones to look out for:
Gold Standard is a certification that aims to maximize projects that provide lasting environmental, social, and economic benefits. This voluntary carbon offset program considers the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals when verifying projects.
For a carbon offset project to get a Gold Standard Verification, it needs to contribute to a minimum of 3 UN SDGs. Gold Standard has issued over 134 million carbon credits to over 1700 projects in over 60 countries worldwide. Their projects fall under categories like reforestation, community service projects, and renewable energy. Gold Standard targets most of its projects in developing countries.
Verified Carbon Standard is a well-known voluntary carbon offset program. It is also one of the most widely accepted programs. The VCS enables certified projects to convert their greenhouse gas emissions reduction and removal into carbon credits.
They focus on reducing greenhouse gases and do not necessarily focus on a project's social and environmental benefits. VCS has issued carbon credits to over 1700 projects and claims to have removed over 630 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Projects under VCS fall under 15 major categories, including renewable clean energy, forest conservation, and restoration.
Climate Action Reserve is considered a leader in the North American Carbon market and focuses on ensuring the environmental integrity of GHG emissions reduction projects. Its mission is to help companies manage, measure, and reduce carbon emissions.
CAR considers a particular project's social and economic impact and verifies projects based on their permanence. Carbon credits from CAR have a unique serial number to track each project efficiently. Some of these CAR projects include landfill gas collection, forestry, rice cultivation, methane capture, and so on.
Founded as far back as 1996, American Carbon Registry is a leader in the carbon market. They are also certified as an approved Offset Project Registry by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Major projects certified by the ACR include forest management, recycling transformer oil, and carbon capture and storage.
Here are our top picks for some of the best carbon offset programs from all over the world.
Native Energy is one of the best carbon offset programs in the world. Established in 2000, Native Energy is a leader in the carbon offset space and has worked with diverse organizations to create solutions to sustainability challenges.
What is different about Native Energy is that they support projects that offer both environmental and social benefits. They have pioneered community-scale projects that focus on biodiversity and regenerative agriculture. For example, they provided filters for clean water to local communities in Ethiopia with purchased carbon offsets.
This carbon offset program allows both individuals and businesses to offset emissions. With this carbon offset program, you can easily offset your home, travel, and business carbon footprint.
Moreover, they have carbon offset calculators that are unique to both individuals and businesses. As an individual, you get access to an event, travel, or home carbon offset calculator to help determine your own carbon footprint resulting from your activities. It will also reveal the cost of offsetting carbon emissions and investing in carbon offset projects.
Native Energy is a Certified B Corp and follows strict standards for social and environmental programs. They also validate their carbon offsets with third-party standards, including Gold Standard, Climate Action Reserve, American Carbon Registry, and Verified Carbon Standard.
You can buy carbon offsets from Native Energy as a monthly, quarterly, annual, or even one-time purchase.
Sustainable Travel International is one of the best carbon offset programs for tourism businesses. They specialize and are committed to integrating sustainable tourism and travel. Established in 2002, Sustainable Travel International focuses on more long-term environmental impact. They have partnered with policymakers and government agencies to execute strategies that support sustainable tourism. Its mission is to maximize the positive impact of tourism and reduce the negative impacts.
Sustainable Travel International offers carbon offset projects for both individuals and businesses. Businesses can develop a customized carbon offset program or request a carbon footprint assessment.
If you choose to invest with Sustainable Travel International, you don’t have to worry about your money going into legitimate projects or not. Most of their projects focus on biodiversity, clean and efficient energy, and assisting local communities. They also meet the standards of third-party verifiers like Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, Plan Vivo, and so on.
Using their carbon footprint calculator, you can generate the overall carbon emissions of your flight(s) and the cost of offsetting them.
myClimate makes it to our list of the best carbon offset programs thanks to its environmental impact options and is best known for its wide portfolio of carbon-offsetting projects.
Founded in 2002 with its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, myClimate claims to have conducted multiple projects in 45 countries worldwide. They have succeeded in creating thousands of jobs through their carbon offset projects. myClimate has also made significant efforts in educational programs, reaching over 65,000 school children and 11,000 trainees in Switzerland.
They offer a wide range of projects and serve a wide range of customers, including non-profit organizations, private individuals, and companies of various sizes.
You can use myClimate for individual carbon offsets at home, travel, cars, or events. Using their user-friendly carbon offset calculators, you can calculate and offset your carbon footprint.
myClimate invests in projects that result in long-term success and only makes carbon offset payments when carbon emission reductions are made.
Terrapass offers carbon offset programs for individuals and businesses using a subscription model. With its Carbon Balanced Business Plan, companies can easily support carbon reduction projects on a monthly subscription.
Launched in 2004, Terrapass aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of driving. Today Terrapass has expanded to greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors like energy consumption and travel. Being one of the best carbon offset providers in the United States, they serve individuals, small businesses, medium and large corporations, and events. You can purchase carbon offsets using their monthly subscription plan or choose to offset emissions for specific events like flights, tourism, water use, and so on.
Their carbon offset projects vary from methane capture to wind power, landfill gas capture, and farming. Most of their projects are in the United States and aim at supporting small communities that cannot run large-scale environmental projects.
Ecologi is a carbon offset program that aims to enable people to become “climate positive” and simply undertake climate action. Founded in 2019 in Bristol, United Kingdom, Ecologi serves both individuals and businesses.
They offer a personal carbon offset monthly subscription plan. Purchases from carbon offsets go to forest restoration efforts, renewable energy, clean cookstoves, clean drinking water, and so on.
If you purchase carbon offsets from Ecologi, trees are planted. This carbon offset program has planting partners, including One Tree Planted, Eden Reforestation, and Trees for the Future. These charities can plant millions of trees monthly, helping mitigate climate change. Their personal carbon offset plan allows you to choose how many trees you want to plant for a particular price.
Ecologi also comes with third-party certifications like Gold Standard and VCS.
Founded by Stephane Hallaire in 2010, this french company claims to have contributed to planting over 20 million trees in various countries. Reforest’Action is a crowd-planting company that aims to create, restore and preserve forests worldwide so that humanity will continue to enjoy environmental and economic benefits in the future.
Using their carbon footprint calculator, you can calculate your emissions. Through a monthly commitment with Roforest’Action, you can choose between three options - Gift or plant trees, Direct Carbon Offsets, or Subscribe to the forest. By purchasing carbon offsets, you can support their various reforestation efforts. This carbon offset program has active reforestation projects in different continents, including Asia, Africa, and North and South America.
Reforest’Action is a Certified B Corp and comes with an ECOCERT third-party certification.
Clear stands out as one of the best carbon offsetting programs and is also one of the few to achieve a Quality Assurance Standards Certification for all of its carbon offsets. This certification affirms that every offset satisfied the 40-point checklist for the highest carbon negating standards.
More than this, Clear goes a step further than other programs by providing more specific categories for carbon offsets. With the Clear carbon offset program, you can calculate carbon emissions from your home, motorcycle, internet, commute, and so on.
For example, with their commute carbon offset calculator, you can calculate how much it costs to offset the miles used in commuting to work or traveling. They also work on several carbon offset projects like clean energy, methane capture, Hydroelectric, and cookstove carbon offsetting projects.
Clear also comes with third-party verifications and is a Certified B Corp.
CabornClick is an environmental company that aims to make climate actions transparent and straightforward for individuals and businesses through carbon offset projects that help our planet.
Headquartered in New Zealand, this carbon offset program claims to have successfully offset 38 million kg of carbon dioxide through diverse emissions reduction projects.
Carbon Click has a different approach to carbon offsets. Carbon offsets purchased are automatically sourced from several projects, which depend on your geographical location. 50% of fees deducted will go to local flagship forest regeneration or conservation projects, while the other 50% will go to high-impact international clean energy projects.
All carbon offsets from CarbonClick adhere to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. They also have third-party verifications like Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard.
GoClimate is a carbon offset program aimed at slowing climate change. Since its inception in 2017, GoClimate claims to have contributed to removing over 804,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.
They offer three carbon offset options - gift cards, monthly subscriptions, and flight offsets which individuals and businesses can purchase. Purchases are channeled to various projects, including water filter projects, landfill gas recovery projects, cookstove projects, etc. To ensure transparency and quality, GoClimate uses the Gold Standard.
3Degrees is one of the best carbon offset programs aimed at offsetting emissions for businesses. Founded in 2007, 3Degrees believes companies play a critical role in solving global climate change. They help businesses to buy and sell carbon offsets. In addition, they also provide energy and climate consulting services.
Their carbon offset projects focus on carbon reduction and removal. It also includes landfill gas, sustainable forestry, and livestock manure management. They offset all emissions that come from commuting and business travel and also subsidize public transportation costs for their full-time employees.
3Degrees is a certified B Corp, meaning they follow high standards when it comes to environmental and social performance. Their carbon offset projects are also third-party verified.
Carbonfund is one of the best carbon offset providers in the United States. Founded in 2003, this non-profit organization aims to make it easy for individuals and businesses to offset their emissions. With 50,000 pounds of CO2 produced by the average American, Carbonfund claims to have offset over 38 million pounds of carbon emissions, supporting over 200 projects.
To invest through Carbonfund, you can choose four options - Individual offsets, Plant Trees, Donate or Buy Gifts. You can buy customized offsets for your home, air travel, water usage, and so on.
Carbonfund supports several third-party verified projects and initiatives and claims to have planted over a million trees.
Cool Effect started with a clean-burning cookstove project in 1998 and has since grown to support more than 15 global projects and a community of over 500,000.
They offer carbon offsets for flights and travel and direct purchases toward projects that reduce carbon pollution. Their projects are third-party verified by international carbon standards like Gold Standard and Climate Action Reserve. They include tree planting, clean cookstove projects, forestry, and so on in countries like the United States, India, China, Kenya, and Uganda.
To invest with Cool effect, you can choose between donating to all projects or picking a specific project. The great part is more than 90% of every dollar you donate goes right into these projects, and 9.87% goes into credit charges.
atmosfair is a German-based non-profit organization that aims to support sustainable travel and development while reducing emissions.
They support various projects, from solar energy to wind energy, biomass, eco-tourism, and environmental education in different countries. 90% of these projects come with a Gold Standard verification.
atmosfair is one of the best carbon offset programs for flights and can help you measure and offset your emissions effectively. You can subscribe to offset any amount of carbon dioxide monthly or quarterly.
Using a subscription program, Treepoints makes it easy for individuals and businesses to offset their carbon footprint. They also use a bulk-buy model, which means lower prices for customers on a budget. Purchases go towards projects like tree planting, plastic recycling, and reducing carbon. Gold Standard and VCS also verify these projects.
Treepoints does not have a specific service fee but offers competitive prices per ton. What’s more, when you donate or refer someone, you earn points that qualify you to receive a gift voucher.
Carbon Checkout is an easy-to-use plug-in software that you can add to existing eCommerce stores to help your customers invest in carbon offsets after shopping. If you want your eCommerce brand to stand out, this is something worth investing in. They first started in 2007 and launched their Shopify app in 2015.
Carbon Checkout works in over 37 countries and has worked with more than 2000 eCommerce sellers. It is easy to use and simply appears on the eCommerce store checkout page. Customers can then choose to offset the carbon footprint from their order with just one click of a button. Customers can also track their offset contributions. These contributions go toward renewable energy projects, which are all third-party verified.
EcoCRED is a carbon offset program that aims to reduce GHG emissions to create a carbon-neutral future. They offer socially responsible services to various small communities and claim to have successfully reduced more than 18 million kg of CO2 emissions.
You can invest in EcoCRED through their individual carbon offset packages or consumer offsets based on specific lifestyles.
Investments go towards projects like forest preservation, wind energy, and so on in the United States. These projects are certified by third-party organizations like Climate Action Reserve, Verified Carbon Standard, and American Carbon Registry.
While offsetting your carbon footprint isn't a substitute for reducing carbon emissions, investing in carbon offset programs has several benefits.
By purchasing carbon offsets, you can contribute to projects that reduce and remove harmful emissions from our planet. It also neutralizes the negative impact you make on the environment.
Also, by investing in carbon offsets, you can contribute to providing wages and other benefits in developing nations.
Lastly, by investing in offset programs, you can also encourage large organizations to cut emissions and invest in clean, sustainable energy.
A few limitations make the carbon market appear controversial and sometimes confusing. Here are some limitations to investing in carbon offsets:
There are many arguments about the effectiveness of carbon offsetting. When you buy carbon offsets, in some sense, you are paying to avoid cutting or reducing your own emissions. In reality, this is not enough to reduce the impact of global warming, climate change, and other environmental issues. While carbon offsets are a good starting point, cutting down our carbon emissions is the best way to make a higher environmental impact. After all, if we cut down our carbon emissions, we won’t need to offset them.
Reducing your emissions has multiple benefits, including mitigating climate change, improving health, protecting biodiversity, and improving the economy.
Overall, carbon offsetting may not be perfect. Still, it can significantly impact our planet. By investing in some of the best carbon offset programs, you can reduce your carbon footprint and cause an environmental, social, and economic change in the world.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.