Offsetting is a term that is used a lot in the environmental sphere and has both its fans and its critics. Personally, I am a fan, but I do understand the reasons why someone might be critical, which I’ll explore a bit below. I formed my position (of being a fan) after doing a bit of research into how I could make my business practices as sustainable as possible and now I want all businesses (and individuals for that matter) to get on board.
Greenfleet, one of Australia’s oldest and most trusted offset providers, describes a carbon offset as “a project or activity that reduces greenhouse gas emissions or sequesters (captures) carbon from the atmosphere to compensate for the emissions created by your own activities.” In the case of Greenfleet, that activity is planting native, biodiverse forests throughout Australia and New Zealand, which they have been doing since 1997, amassing a total of 9.2 million trees planted and 500 forests created. When a business (or individual) purchases carbon offsets (or donates to an offsetter), they do so to redress some of the environmental impact of their business practices. Those practices may be domestic or international travel, the use of corporate vehicles, electricity usage, deliveries & freight, conferences, events and festivals, and so on.
Greenfleet is among a number of offset providers in Australia, including Greening Australia, Carbon Neutral, and Trillion Trees but I’m referring more to them because they are who I donate to for my own offsets. They – like other offsetters – can work with a business to calculate their carbon emissions and determine appropriate offsets, they can work with a business to achieve carbon neutral certification or they can just be a provider that plants trees on an ad hoc basis on behalf of an organisation.
But it isn’t just for businesses; offsetting is a great option for individuals, families or groups to redress the impact of an event – say a family holiday (that trip to Hawaii, perhaps?), a house renovation, or a large wedding, etc – or of their way of life – say from driving a car, or their electricity consumption. And you can also use an offset provider simply as an option for donating so that trees get planted. Greenfleet suggest donating offsets as an alternative to giving out wedding favours – which I love!
Critics have said that offsetting is greenwashing and allows businesses and individuals to be complacent about their behaviour, and that new trees won’t sequester adequate carbon for many years to come. While it is true that trees take time to reach maximum sequestering ability, the first complaint may not be entirely accurate as there is an understanding that offsetting may actually make us more mindful of our carbon footprint. Certainly, most of us motivated to invest in a tree planting scheme (whether it is an offset programme or not) care about the environment and are likely have positive behaviours beyond that. Organisations may be a different story, but we can hope (and, in some cases, demand) that offsetting is just one aspect of a range of positive environmental actions.
In my view, offsetting is absolutely worth doing, even if you or your business is actively minimising emissions, and absolutely, especially if not! After all we need all the trees we can get.
See you next time! - Elise
Subscribe to Positive Environment News
Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.