Understanding Carbon Offsets
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Alternatives to Purchasing

Going Beyond Emission Reductions

Reducing GHG emissions to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2050—the targets identified by the 2018 IPCC report on limiting global warming to 1.5 °C and avoiding disastrous climate change impacts—will require infrastructure and societal change. Beginning this transformation does not need to wait for new science or technologies. Cost-effective climate solutions are plentiful for energy, transportation, waste, agriculture and other GHG emitting sources. The persistent barrier is political will to implement these solutions.

As a responsible actor, it is morally appropriate that you set your own climate protection priorities. Your voluntary emission reduction commitments can show leadership. Here is how you and your organization can meaningfully help protect the climate.

Political advocacy

Most importantly, be politically active: vote, support, and donate to initiatives and officials seeking political office who will enact and implement climate change legislation and regulations. Remind elected officials of your support through climate advocacy: lobbying, sponsorship of climate-related events, public statements (i.e. the #WeAreStillIn Campaign) and leveraging your market power to push for legislative change. You can also encourage your employees, customers, and organizational members to join you in these efforts through phone calls, letters, petitions, and attending rallies and marches. Consider granting office holidays on election days to ease voting for employees. Beyond what guidance we can offer, think creatively – leveraging your company’s products, customer base, and values – to generate the public support necessary to pass legislation and curtail emissions, while building your brand as an organization committed to a sustainable and democratic future.

Financial stewardship

The fossil fuel industry is still building pipelines, extracting coal, oil and gas reserves. These projects are funded by many of the banks and investment managers we use, as well as the endowments that make our organizations possible. Understanding your institutional connection to fossil fuel investments can be an eye-opening experience, and an opportunity to demand agency over your money. Depending on your institution’s structure, you may be able to actively shift funds to non-fossil fuel investments or may need to take a longer term approach: advocating within your organization for a greater level of climate responsibility through “reinvestment” of fossil fuel financing. Addressing endowments, annual budget holdings, pension funds and ensuring climate-responsible retirement options for employees are actionable steps to exercise agency and reduce the availability of funding for fossil fuel development.

Community building

A 1.5 °C warmed world still involves many dangers, like increased damage from natural disaster and less consistent rainfall patterns. Community resilience efforts to prepare organizations and communities for the dangers they face must also be prioritized. As a member of your community, share your understanding of the threats of climate change by educating others and urging them to take action. Established communal approaches to decision-making can facilitate changes to protect against future damages, and acceptance of difficult decisions in times of disaster.

Live by example

In addition, encourage your employees, customers, and organizational members to reduce their carbon footprints and live less energy-intense lifestyles. Encourage them to fly less, live in an apartment close to work, use public transportation, eat vegan, vegetarian or less meat, insulate your home, and compost food waste. Encourage conscious consumerism – reduce overall consumption of material goods and advocate for intentionality about the products you do purchase. Seek to reduce plastic usage, support companies committed to addressing climate change, buy long-lasting energy-efficient appliances, and encourage others to do the same. Incentives, employee benefits, education and awareness campaigns are each effective ways to promote individual sustainable behavior as an organization. There are many more tips available for improving personal lifestyle sustainability, but essential to this objective is your ability to communicate these changes to others thereby spreading these practices.

However, it is important to note that climate change is a global collective action problem that inherently will only be solved through policy, not individual acts of virtue.

Donate to support good work

Make charitable contributions to high impact environmental and social projects around the world.

A note for individuals

Addressing climate change is a large task and we must each do what we can to promote a sustainable future. That being said, even the most dedicated, energized, and brilliant among us will find their impact amplified by group membership and coalition building. Organize your neighborhood, faith-community, alumni network, rec-league sports team, dance class, and the other communities you have access to because our message is amplified when spoken by more voices.