Carbon Offsets and How They Work

I’m currently writing this post in January of 2020, as hundreds of acres of land burns in Australia. It seems like it takes a massive catastrophe like this to wake people up about the climate crisis. I’ve been thinking a lot about ways I can help and how I can play my part in reducing climate change. To start this post, here is a list of things I’ve changed in my everyday life.

  • No makeup wipes. They are wasteful (not to mention bad for the skin), so I switched to cleansing balms.
  • No plastic bags at shops (if they offer me one, I decline).
  • Reduce the number of plastic straws I’m using, I carry a metal straw with me.
  • I’ve chosen to eat no beef when possible. I am working to cut out other foods. I try to eat plant-based butter, oat milk/almond milk, etc. Of course, making diet changes can be difficult so I’ve started small.
  • Buying carbon offsets for flights (see below for more info)
  • Using beeswax wrap instead of one-use kitchen materials. My favorites are from FreewheelinMarket on Etsy, linked here.
  • Environmentally-friendly laundry detergent, soap, cosmetics. For example, I only buy products at Sephora that are labeled “Clean at Sephora”. Click here to read more about their Clean program.
  • Nespresso recycling program

The list goes on. I’ve implemented changes into my life that are small, but effective.

Now, let’s talk about carbon offsets.

What are they?

A carbon offset is a reduction of emissions in some form, in order to compensate for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are emitted in excess.

Why should people buy them?

Flying emits a large amount of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. CO2 makes up 65% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It might be impractical to reduce the number of miles you are flying, so carbon offsetting is a good option.

Who can give me more advice?

Flying Tips to Reduce Carbon Emissions

  • Reduce the number of short-haul flights you are taking
  • Book flights with more fuel-efficient airlines
  • Fly nonstop if possible

How can I buy carbon offsets?

  • Many airlines have programs associated with them where you can buy offsets. Examples of these airlines are Alaska Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, etc. Their website interfaces include diagrams that allow you to easily calculate the flight’s footprint and what it will take monetarily to offset the flight. You are able to purchase the carbon offsets directly on the airline site for many of them.
  • If the airline you are flying with doesn’t have a program set up, you can buy carbon offsets with certified programs. These are a few that are recommended:


United Nations Carbon Offset Platform

Climate Action Reserve

Gold Standard

I strongly encourage you to start purchasing carbon offsets when you travel! It’s something I have started to do, along with the other changes I’ve listed above.

Let’s hold each other accountable to travel responsibly.




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