Perhaps more than ever, both individuals and businesses are purchasing carbon offsets as a way to take part in the fight against climate change, but knowing the best and most popular carbon offset providers of 2021 can be tricky.
Just because a carbon offset company wants to help the planet doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s effective. That’s because the best providers aren’t just planting a few trees and calling it a day. They’re running innovative, research-based forest carbon programs with long-term staying power.
Before buying carbon credits or carbon offsets, it’s important that consumers take the time to evaluate the company or organization offering the program. This is especially true when you consider the rise of the voluntary carbon offset market, which has saturated the field with low-quality or questionable solutions.
This guide identifies some of the best and most popular carbon offset providers of 2021 and ranks their programs. It also includes some helpful information on how to choose a carbon offset, especially with so many options available.
Primer: What are Carbon Offsets?
First things first, let’s go over some of the key points regarding carbon credits and offsets:
- Carbon offsets are tradable certificates that can be purchased to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions. Both individuals and organizations can purchase carbon offsets to lower their carbon footprint. The certificate represents an action that erases carbon dioxide from the air, and there are many types of offset programs.
- These offsets are sold by carbon offset providers, who use the proceeds to fund carbon-negative programs around the world. In other words, the money you spend on the offset pays for the removal or prevention of a specific amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the atmosphere.
- Not all offset programs and providers are alike. Before purchasing, consumers should research the pros and cons of each provider and the details behind their carbon-negative projects.
- Purchasing offsets and credits to eliminate carbon is what allows some organizations to become ‘carbon neutral companies’ overnight.
Q: What are Carbon Credits?
Carbon Credits are tradable certificates that can be bought and sold and are created anytime a company reduces its overall carbon emissions. When a carbon credit is created, the company can either sell it for profit or hang on to it. READ MORE: Carbon Credits Explained.
8 Billion Trees – Ecological Offsets in the Amazon Rainforest
The actual environmental impact of carbon credits varies widely. This is not just because projects differ in size and scope, but also geographically.
Forest Management projects currently hold the highest value in the carbon marketplace. But many of these projects stop at forest conservation and don’t plant new trees to sequester greenhouse gas emissions. And even projects that do plant trees vary in effectiveness. This is because some projects are considered “premium” for also making a positive impact for local ecosystems and diverse wildlife.
In February of 2021, 8 Billion Trees became the first carbon offset provider in the world to launch its own projects. Leading a grassroots campaign in the Amazon, they partner with Governments in the Amazon to heal and restore degraded lands while also protecting existing forests and rehabilitating endangered wildlife at a wildlife sanctuary.
In other words, 8 Billion Trees plants trees not just for their carbon-capturing magic, but to heal the planet and save animals.
The first step is calculating your ecological footprint.
Then you can use your calculated CO2 emissions to completely erase your emissions with a carbon offset membership. Carbon offset certificates for single-time use are also available, but vary depending on the provider. We asked 8 Billion Trees members for some of their favorites:
- Long Showers
- Food delivery anyone?
- Binge watching your favorite series (for a third time, but we won’t tell)
- Flights and Travel (a leading contributor of emissions for individuals)
No matter how you choose to go green, you’re supporting climate-positive projects, animal sanctuaries, and ecosystem recovery in the areas that need it the most.
Terrapass Review: Fighting Climate Change with Transparent, Verified Offsets
Another popular carbon offsets on the voluntary market is Terrapass. This is a multi-faceted company on a mission to save the planet from climate change by operating customer-funded emissions reduction projects across the globe.
Terrapass’s project catalog is truly impressive. At any given time, this company is funding around a dozen carbon projects all over the world. The Big Smile Wind Farm at Dempsey Ridge helps provide clean energy to American households, while their Methane Capture Project in Pennsylvania prevents harmful GHG emissions from entering the atmosphere.
Is Terrapass legit? As a US-based company, Terrapass does a good job of helping Americans with carbon offsetting. However, their focus on national projects has sometimes prevented them from helping out in other parts of the globe.
Native Energy Solutions – When Green Power Meets Carbon Offsets
For a full-featured offset company, it doesn’t get much better than Native. As a certified Public Benefit Corporation, Native Energy Solutions is dedicated to putting consumer funds in the hands of important and viable climate projects.
In addition to offering individual and business-sized carbon offsets, Native also sells 100% renewably-powered green energy credits. There’s also an integrated Carbon Tracking Software that businesses can use to comply with international GHG protocols.
COTAP: Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty
What sets COTAP apart from other carbon offset companies is their “dual mission.” COTAP isn’t only trying to alleviate the impact of climate change by preventing and sequestering carbon, they’re also trying to alleviate global poverty, particularly in developing nations where it’s needed the most.
Unfortunately, when researching COTAP, you might come across some Google results for “COTAP Scam.” From what we can tell, this is in reference to an incident involving a different company altogether. Today, COTAP does a really good job of staying completely transparent.
Carbon Offset Certificates – Verified Carbon Standard & the Gold Standard
With sites like Verified Carbon Standard (Verra), Green-E Climate Standard, and the Gold Standard, it’s easy to research offsets before purchasing. You can even find carbon credits for sale, and verify the additionality of each project. (Additionality refers to whether an action has an impact, compared to a base. For example, if planting one tree erases roughly 187 pounds of Co2, how much carbon was generated to plant the tree? To have additionality, the sequestered carbon must be more than the effort it took. This aspect is particularly connected to carbon crediting.)
8 Billion Trees is a big fan of The Gold Standard simply because they make it easy to buy from a number of different providers, all in one place.
Cool Effect – Offsetting the Carbon Emissions for American Airlines Flights & More
Some of the world’s largest and most influential companies have “seen the writing on the wall,” about climate change. That’s why they’re partnering with groups like Cool Effect to offset a significant amount of carbon pollution from their largest factories.
American Airlines is one such company. AA has paired with Cool Effect to give its flyers a direct opportunity to offset the carbon footprint of their commercial flight. This is in addition to AA’s commitment to replace its entire fleet with more energy-efficient aircraft.
Audi is another huge company pairing with Cool Effect. But eco-friendly people might be more interested in the new Audi e-Tron, a fully electric SUV that comes with a lot more style points.
South Pole Carbon Credit Program
With over 700 climate action projects around the world, South Pole has the largest offset program portfolio. This wide selection makes it easy for businesses to choose the specific project that aligns with their brand identity and sustainable energy goals.
Like other companies that are geared toward offsetting ecological footprints, South Pole features a carbon calculator for both individuals and organizations. Once you know your footprint, you can purchase a CO2 offset to compensate for the emissions.
Carbotax – Defining the Cost of Carbon Emissions Via Carbon Offset Calculators
With the 8 Billion Trees (8BT) Carbon Offset Calculator, you can find out exactly how much CO2 pollution that you’re creating. But 8BT isn’t the only company with a big offsetting impact: CarboTax lets users compare their carbon footprints to those of the ‘average’ American. Simply answer 33 short questions, and CarboTax will provide you with your home’s Climate Impact Score, as well as the average amount of carbon that you’re emitting on an annual basis.
Do carbon offsets work? With Carbonfund.Org, users can find out firsthand as they explore the various forestry, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects that they have going on. This is also a good place for businesses to go to start the journey toward becoming CarbonFree.
Green Mountain Energy – A Coalition of Choices
Green Mountain Energy offers a variety of offset solutions that meet high-quality standards. Areas of offsets include effective forestry projects, energy efficiency, renewable energy options, and methane capture, and the high reputation of the provider means that consumers can be sure that the solutions they fund are actually making a difference.