How can you “make a difference” with carbon offsetting?

Many of our members prefer to work with clients whose businesses are trying to make the world a better place and actively avoid those who treat the planet and its inhabitants badly.

But how can you tell who is really making a difference?

Lots of businesses claim to be “doing good” by offsetting their carbon footprint and sometimes its hard to tell if they’re having a real impact or if they’re just greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

Mia Bazo,  the innovative self-service platform that helps frequent travellers manage their climate impact as well as immigration, tax, security and other essential services, explains the problem:

There are two ways to combat climate change that is due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. First, change your activities so you create less carbon dioxide (CO2). Next, undertake activities that decrease the amount of CO2 that’s already in the air.

We believe individuals and businesses should do both, through changing our activities and carbon offsetting. This is where the controversy comes in. If you’re purchasing carbon offset, are you really helping the planet, or is it greenwashing – simply giving the appearance that you’re helping mitigate climate change?

They give an example of organisations that donate water filters to people in areas where clean water is not available. The idea is that less wood burned is burned to boil and purify the water, resulting in less CO2 .

Is this really offsetting carbon?

Nope, says Mia Bazo they’re just contributing a bit to the situation not getting worse. If they’re not also taking positive steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their offices and manufacturing processes, that’s greenwashing.

What about tree planting, one of the most popular carbon offsetting schemes?

Mia Bazo says: Tree planting does a little good but if this is all a company does to decrease their carbon footprint, it still has a whiff of greenwashing. When a company examines every process, property, vehicle and employee travel for opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint, and then purchases valid carbon offset to reduce their balance to zero, that company is truly green.

Unless a company accurately measures their carbon footprint, how do they know how much they need to offset to make a real impact?

For more on Greenwashing and carbon offsetting see Mia Bazo’s post Isn’t Carbon Offset just Greenwashing?

Want to get involved?

You can sign up for a free Climate Impact Calculator Tool account to calculate, publish, offset and reduce your carbon footprint.