If we are unable to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions in our daily activities, we can partially address the problem by investing in carbon offsets (also sometimes known as carbon credits). While these do not eliminate our emissions, they can counter (offset) our emissions.  One obvious activity that we sometimes have to undertake that is very expensive in terms of GHG emissions is flying.  Others are everyday travel and day-to-day living.  It is possible to buy these to cover annual or specific GHG emission costs

The principle is to find a company that engages in projects that either produce energy with reduced emissions (i.e. from renewable sources), or extract greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.  Sustainable forestry or regenerative agriculture are the two most obvious ways of achieving the latter.  Since it is difficult for individuals to locate projects that perform these functions, several entities have developed that provide lists if potential offset targets.

It is important that the target of our offset investments should:

a) entail a project that would not happen absent our investment,

b) is not a sham, meaning it really does either reduce emissions or promote capture, and

c)  does not result in environmental or social injustice.  Environmental injustice would occur, for example, if the project in which we invest were clearing natural forests to replace them with tree plantations.  Social injustice would occur, for example, if a project compromised the way of life of native or otherwise disadvantaged peoples.

Further reading about cautions can be found at Green America: Carbon Offsets Demystified 

We do not recommend any specific organization. These are groups we know about, so share this information to help you get started.

Carbon (calculators and buying)

Native Energy (How Offsets work and Buying)

My Climate


Cool Effect

Please check these out.  If you have never purchased carbon offsets before, you will probably be surprised at how moderately priced they are.  When SOCAN sponsors a car-pooling excursion, for example,  to Salem to lobby, rally or demonstrate for meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reduction legislation, we generally buy offsets to cover the emissions resulting from the travel.

Examples of How Offsets Help Communities

The Yurok Tribe Is Using California’s Carbon Offset Program to Buy Back Its Land. (April 19, 2021) By Abaki Beck, YES! Magazine. With income from sequestering carbon in its forests, the tribe has supported youth programming, housing, road improvement, and businesses development.