10 of the Best & Most Popular Carbon Offset Providers of 2021

By Georgette Kilgore | Updated on August 18, 2021

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 programs and providers of carbon offsets of 2021. It also includes some helpful information on how to choose a carbon offset, especially with so many options available.

A tree's branches or canopy is in the shape of a fist and is punching or flighting smoke(greenhouse gas emissions) released from a factory. The image symbolizes that forestry projects and other types of carbon offsets can fight or mitigate greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions and climate change all at once.

Identifying the Best Carbon Offset Programs

With carbon offsets becoming one of the biggest solutions in the fight against climate change, new programs are being added all the time. But the most popular carbon offset providers of 2021 aren’t necessarily the best for the planet, ecosystems, and animal wildlife.

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.

The best carbon offset providers involved in tree planting offset programs also work to ensure that the seedlings and plants that are reintroduced into an area are native to the area. Protecting natural biodiversity is crucial for the health of the planet, and this prevents invasive species from altering the habitats and entire ecosystem that is being rebuilt.

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 reduce carbon footprint. The certificate represents an action that absorbs 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.

A green footprint with icons of electricity, fire, recycling, bicycles, and trash inside of it with text saying

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.

Ranking the Top Carbon Offset Companies and Carbon Offset Providers

One important aspect to consider when ranking carbon offset providers and carbon offsetting companies, is whether the activities are designed to work for the environment for the long term. Too often an offset model simply ‘moves’ the carbon emissions from one area to another, like allowing a coal factory to buy ‘credits’ from afforestation that will be harvested in 10 or 20 years, or buying carbon credits to ‘protect’ forests that aren’t in danger of destruction.

The best carbon offset programs operate for the long haul, establishing environmental solutions that will still be helping remove emissions for many decades to come.

1. 8 Billion Trees – Combating Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest & Saving Animal Wildlife

There are a lot of ways to offset carbon, but forest-carbon projects are among the most immediately accessible. With reforestation efforts across the globe, 8 Billion Trees focuses its efforts on restoring the the planet’s forest resources to their natural, carbon-capturing state. This goes beyond just removing CO2 from the air; it rebuilds precious ecosystems in the Amazon Rainforest while promoting wildlife conservation through a sanctuary that heals and rehabilitates hurt animals.

Backed and verified by government organizations with documents available for the public to view at any time, transparency is deep and goes beyond just third-party reviews.

Using an ecological footprint calculator, you can find your precise emissions footprint. This is unique to 8 Billion Trees and not available from other offset providers that just use averages to sell you a certificate that doesn’t really represent your personal lifestyle. This is very important, because many things go into your footprint. From the food you eat, to your transportation choices, to your pets–they all change your footprint amount.

Did you know that even your zip code impacts your emissions amount? This is because every state and region uses a different standard for energy production at local power plants. Even if you choose to reduce your footprint a different way, calculating your footprint is the first step.

Then, using your precisely calculated CO2 emissions, you can purchase the right individual carbon offsets. You can even get specific products like carbon offsets for flights or rental car carbon offsets. No matter which activity that you offset, you’re supporting climate-positive projects, animal sanctuaries, and ecosystem recovery in the areas that need it the most.

Calculate Your Carbon Footprint in 60 Seconds

2. Terrapass Review: Fighting Climate Change with Transparent, Climate Offsets

One of the most 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.

3. 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.

A graphic image shows people planting trees, solar panels, wind turbines, an agricultural area all in one frame demonstrating social enterprises, non profits, and governments alike can offset carbon emissions together.

In addition to offering individual and business-sized carbon offsets, Native also sells 100% renewably-powered green energy credits. These energy credits are helping lower the overall greenhouse gas emissions needed. There’s also an integrated Carbon Tracking Software that businesses can use to comply with international GHG protocols.

4. 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.

5. Carbon Offset Certificates – Verified Carbon Standard & the Gold Standard

If you’re going to buy carbon certificates, there’s perhaps no better place to do it than through the carbon offset companies and registries that are really paying attention.

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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

Knowing your emissions footprint, even before contacting one of these carbon offset providers, is a great way to get started because they illuminate areas in your everyday life that can be changed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower your overall impact on the planet.

9. Carbonfund.Org Review

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.

10. 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.

Working with the Best Carbon Offset Providers and Carbon Offsetting Companies

The preceding carbon offset providers have many key things in common, which makes working with them to lower your emissions both easy, and for the most part, effective. Their transparency and dedication to the environment are both honorable and encouraging, because you know that your efforts are part of a larger, united mission to reduce the dangers and destruction caused by excessive greenhouse gases and climate change problems.

But, before you choose a program to support, always make sure that your efforts are maximized and will have a positive impact on the planet for the long term. Protecting old growth forests (as long as they actually need protecting) and reestablishing biodiverse ecosystems through reforestation offer some of the best, lasting solutions for removing carbon emissions and fighting climate change.

So, before picking one of the best carbon offset programs and providers of 2021, check to see what they are doing to keep the Earth’s forests green.