Carbon offsets allow travellers to purchase a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions to compensate for, or to offset, the same amount of emissions produced by their trip. “They’re an imperfect interim solution until we get our act together on low-carbon transportation,” says Tom Green, a climate solutions policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation.
Not all carbon-offset projects are equal, however. The David Suzuki Foundation recommends avoiding buying offsets from tree-planting projects, since they don’t address our dependence on fossil fuels and are impermanent (a forest fire could wipe out trees planted with the best of intentions, for example).
Instead, they recommend people go with the Gold Standard, the highest standard in the world for carbon offsets, as the offset of choice. Administered by the Gold Standard Foundation, a non-profit foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland, the Gold Standard is now supported by more than 80 non-governmental organizations and focuses on projects in developing countries since it was developed in 2003.
Less Emissions, a Canadian company owned by the green energy retailer Bullfrog Power, prices its carbon offsets by the tonne. Domestic offsets cost $20 per tonne, while international offsets cost $24 per tonne.
The domestic project Less Emissions helps fund is a landfill near Windsor, Ont., where methane gas is captured and converted to carbon dioxide. The international projects it works with, all of them Gold Standard, include an initiative to replace coal-powered stoves used in China with solar-powered ones.
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