How does Carbon Offsetting reduce Carbon Footprints?

carbon offsetting Apr 16, 2020

Carbon Offsetting as a concept has been around since the 1970s, but it was only in the mid-2000s that the term ‘Carbon Offset’ became popularised. Since then carbon offsets have become the primary way of reducing carbon footprints for those who have to, like large businesses producing a lot of pollution. It’s also become popular with those who want to voluntarily reduce their footprint, like environmentally conscious individuals and smaller businesses.

But how does carbon offsetting reduce our carbon footprints?

Capturing Carbon

At an individual level our carbon footprints are the amount of pollution we produce in our day-to-day lives, most of which comes from how we travel around the planet and power our homes. In the UK around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions come just from road transport. Things we take for granted, like the amount of plastic that our shopping comes wrapped and packed in, are also contributing factors.  

Less obvious sources may increase the size of our carbon footprint. For example the clothing industry is the world’s second largest polluter behind oil (and not just in terms of air pollution). As individuals and businesses we may often be aware of the unintentional impact we’re having on the environment, but carbon offsetting can help.

Carbon offsetting works by either capturing carbon in the atmosphere, by planting more trees which absorb carbon, or generating renewable energy to reduce the demand on energy from polluting non-renewable sources.

Planting trees is a well-known and effective way of offsetting carbon

When carbon offsets are purchased the money goes towards projects such as tree planting activities, deforestation prevention, and renewable energy schemes such as wind farms. Many projects will have a positive impact beyond reducing the amount of carbon in the air, like the UN’s project to create more efficient cook stoves in Uganda.

In 2018 a total of 37 billion tonnes of CO2 were produced globally, an increase of around 3% on the previous year’s total when 63.4 million tonnes were offset in the voluntary carbon market. So clearly there’s a long way to go. In order for the planet to become carbon neutral, offsetting as much as it produces, around 37 billion tonnes of carbon will need to be offset every year.

Measuring the Impact

While the concept is simple for carbon offsetting to really work it’s important that projects are managed and their impact carefully verified, to avoid rogue offsetting projects giving genuinely impactful ones a bad name. Third-party verification from services like the UN’s own Carbon offset platform and Gold Standard is essential for validating the effectiveness of projects, and making sure that the biggest polluters are actually reducing their carbon footprints.

Making a difference with DOVU

Reducing our carbon emissions to zero is a big challenge. To become carbon neutral individuals we must not only make changes that limit the amount of carbon we emit, but also purchase carbon offsets to capture the carbon we do create.

DOVU was set up with the goal of making carbon offsetting easier for everyone and more transparent, so that anyone subscribing to one of our carbon offset plans can be sure that they’re making a difference.

To find out how you can reduce your carbon footprint visit The HUB where you can subscribe to a Gold Standard approved carbon offsetting project, or read more stories like this one with tips on how to lead a more sustainable life.