Trying to learn about different types of carbon offset projects can feel like trying to run a marathon without any training. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Carbon offset services can help companies meet their carbon reduction goals by offsetting their carbon emissions.
Basically, when they can’t lower their emissions anymore, they can use carbon credits to cover the rest. Those credits come from projects that reduce carbon emissions, directly or indirectly. This isn’t meant to be a replacement for reducing emissions, but a support along the way.
In this article, we’ll talk about how carbon offsets can help companies, communities, and the environment. Let’s start by delving into the different carbon offset project types!
What Are the Different Types of Carbon Offset Projects?
EcoCart categorizes carbon offset projects into three basic types: nature-based, sustainable infrastructure, and improving livelihood. These carbon offset project types aren’t hard and fast, but they can help you understand how these projects make their impact. Good carbon credit programs can fall into 2 (or all 3!) categories.
Nature-based solutions are pretty self-explanatory, and they can come in so many shapes and sizes! Basically, these solutions harness the natural abilities of plants and ecosystems. Along the way, they often do great things for people, too!
Forestry is a common focus for nature-based projects. After all, trees are the lungs of the world. Plants capture carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, and these carbon offsetting projects harness that power. They work with nature to capture and hold on to carbon (a.k.a. carbon sequestration). Pretty cool, right?
There’s always a lot of conversation around planting trees, but is that the best we can do?
Nope! Turns out, protecting forests is just as important as rebuilding them. Established trees actually capture more carbon than younger trees. Cool, right? That means that we can have a bigger impact by protecting existing forests!
When we talk about reforestation projects, we’re talking about rebuilding forests that have been there recently. These projects involve planting seedlings to help forests recover. In some cases, people could plant companion plants to encourage biodiversity.
On the other side, we have afforestation. Afforestation projects involve planting trees where there haven’t been any trees recently. Afforestation is common at the neighborhood level, with communities coming together to plant trees. Counties building parks often practice afforestation too!
Conversion is a common problem. Forests, wetlands, and prairies get destroyed to make space for something else. It could be anything, from mining or farming to infrastructure and urbanization. Not only does conversion destroy the trees consuming carbon, they often lead to greater emissions in the area. By protecting a forest, we’re protecting the environment!
Improved Forest Management
Remember how we talked about biodiversity? That’s a big part of forest management and forest carbon offset projects (specifically vegetation management)! Forest management covers a bunch of stuff, from vegetation management to controlled burns.
Teams of experts, local workers, and volunteers work together to help these forests grow and thrive. A great example of this is national parks!
Urban Forestry and Conservation
Urban forests are more than the lungs of cities. They help water sink into the soil, refreshing overtaxed water tables and nourishing thirsty plants. But, maybe the best part is the greening of cities.
Cities made up of concrete and glass aren’t just inefficient. They aren’t good for us! We do better when nature is at our fingertips. Urban forests (like our Tri-City Forest Project) are just that!
This one might sound eccentric but bear with us. You’re already familiar with this, kinda. We’ve covered something like it. Basically, blue carbon is about using mangrove forests and other wetlands for carbon storage. These areas are in constant danger because of climate change, so blue carbon projects work to support and revive them.
But that’s not even the best part! These unique ecosystems can be up to 40 times more effective at sequestering carbon than forests. That means these projects protect endangered species and help us minimize our carbon footprints!
2) Sustainable Infrastructure
“Sustainable infrastructure” sounds fancy, but with these carbon offsets, examples aren’t hard to find. Everything from solar power to energy-efficient construction falls under this category. And sustainable infrastructure, especially renewable energy, is a huge area for carbon offsetting.
Unfortunately, some companies invest in cheap renewable energy projects with minimal positive impact. They use it as part of greenwashing, a practice of faking planet-friendliness to improve revenue. Rather than respecting the role of corporate social responsibility, they do their best to look the part.
But renewable energy and other aspects of sustainable infrastructure still have a lot of potential in high-integrity projects.
Is there anywhere that doesn’t get windy? Not really. Wind turbines capture the power of wind, twisting the gears on a generator to create electricity. How cool is that!
Okay, so there’s a teensy problem. They can get loud. But, that just makes them even more perfect for rural areas. Wind farms require a lot of space, so that works! Plus, they’re one of the more affordable ways to get into renewable energy.
There’s nothing quite like the buzz around solar, and it’s not going anywhere! Solar panels absorb and transform the energy in ultraviolet light into electricity. Simple, right?
Well, it comes with some hitches. Solar panels are known for being expensive. And, they often have to be shipped long distances before installation. But, as solar becomes more and more common, new manufacturers will hit the market and costs will start to drop. So, it’s still well worth the investment to encourage long-term accessibility!
Ah, you can’t talk about renewable energy without mentioning hydroelectric power! This powerhouse (and no, we will not pardon that pun) uses the sheer force of moving water. It’s been around for more than a hundred years. Some, like the Hoover Dam, are still running 90 years later!
Hydroelectric power is a great tool for replacing fossil fuels in areas with moving water. In Brazil, one of EcoCart’s projects offsets over 52,000 tons of carbon dioxide by replacing fossil fuels. (That’s the equivalent of 11,204 gas-powered cars driving for a year!)
Okay, before we start, let’s talk about what biofuel is. These fabulous fuels are made out of organic materials. (So, not coal and oil.)
What do corn, soybeans, and wheat have in common? Well, they’re all foods. They’re also sources of biofuel! By fermenting these crops (and others), we can create a variety of biofuels. Biogas, ethanol, and methanol are all biofuels we can harness, and biogas is beginning to replace gasoline!
Another growing trend in offsetting emissions is carbon microtransactions. A microtransaction is a tiny purchase. For example, a carbon neutral shopping cart app works by letting you pay a small fee. This could be 30¢ or a few dollars.
In return, the company offsets the carbon emissions from your purchase. That could mean canceling out travel emissions, or emissions from making the product. This is a great way to let your customers take control of their carbon footprint.
It’s also a great solution for companies that can’t afford to reduce their carbon emissions to 0. While you’re working on the next step in decreasing your company’s carbon footprint, carbon microtransactions can help.
Energy-efficient construction has 2 aspects: energy efficiency during construction and constructing energy-efficient buildings. To start off on the right foot, construction with energy-efficient tools and techniques can lower a building’s carbon footprint.
But, if the floorplan is wasteful, the structure will be energy inefficient. Vaulted ceilings eat electricity from heating and cooling. But, a home that isn’t well sealed and insulated does too. Everything, from the design of a building to the quality of its construction, has an effect on efficiency.
3) Improving Livelihood
Improving livelihood projects (a.k.a. community projects) center people and communities, taking a huge variety of shapes. These projects are incredible because they reduce carbon emissions while solving common problems in underprivileged populations.
Usually, they offer new jobs, training, and even resources. These projects can impact neighborhoods, towns, and entire communities.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) lets organizations implement projects in developing countries (these are called CDM projects).
Waste-to-Energy (Like Biodigesters)
This one might seem counterintuitive but trust the process. These programs burn waste, including trash, and human and animal waste, to create electricity. (Wait, there’s more to it!)
While it seems like a step backward, waste-to-energy has a lot of potential. Waste-to-energy programs can work anywhere. But, more importantly, they can reduce massive quantities of emissions.
See, in anaerobic (airless) conditions, waste gets broken down by bacteria that produce methane and carbon dioxide. By burning it, we can take control of the emissions and reduce the damage. Some of these projects also provide cleaner alternatives to wood-burning stoves, protecting families from harmful smoke. Win-win!
Renewable Energy Projects
Okay, so we already talked a bit about renewable energy. But, we didn’t talk about direct community impact. Renewable energy projects create local jobs, and supply rural and island communities with clean energy!
Fuel & Efficiency
Burning fossil fuels is a huge cause of GHG emissions. So, fuel and efficiency projects can make a big splash in combatting climate change. Shipping companies can switch to fuel-efficient or electric vehicles for their delivery trucks. Organizations with large, old buildings can renovate to reduce energy consumption. (Plus, most companies could benefit from installing solar panels.) Anything that can reduce fuel consumption fits here!
In Eastern Chad, refugees from the war in Darfur have to collect firewood to cook meals. Women are often attacked as they try to get what they need to feed their families
Solution? EcoCart provides solar cookstoves made from cartons and aluminum foil. Over 40,000 families now have solar cookstoves, which work over 90% of the time. This drastically reduces emissions from wood burning, provides a safer cooking method, and gives women more free time.
In Laos, a study found over 85% of people had e. Coli in their drinking water! It must be boiled in order to be made safe to use. One of EcoCart’s projects helps by providing ceramic water filters, reducing their need to burn wood and coal while improving their health and safety.
How Do Carbon Offset Projects and Programs Work?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all this, but this is where it all gets simple. There are just three steps to the carbon offsetting process.
To start things off, we have the development phase. This is where we build the foundation of carbon credit programs. What kind of offsetting projects are we doing? What is our methodology? How will we know if we do well? All of these questions get answered during this phase, as part of a thorough validation process. Then, it’s time to register with a verified carbon standard.
Review Offset Projects
Next, it’s time to monitor and review the projects. Are they working the way they were supposed to? How much are they reducing greenhouse gas emissions? This step helps keep the information accurate so buyers know how much they’re actually offsetting. (It also helps the project run smoothly.)
Operate Registry Systems for Issuance, Transfers, & Retiring of Credits
Finally, we get to registration. These systems keep track of who is making offsets, and who purchases them, making sure credits are retired after purchase. All of this keeps credits from being used more than once (a.k.a. double-counting), and makes everything public knowledge!
Finding high-quality, effective carbon offsetting projects to help you reach carbon neutrality can take a lot of legwork and research. Companies like EcoCart help ecommerce companies offset their emissions with microtransactions with verified and certified carbon offset projects. You’ll love reducing your carbon footprint, and your customers will love picking a greener future!
Learn more about how carbon offsetting is integral to your brand’s success.