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Carbon Offsets - What exactly IS it?!

Posted by Nyla Jano on
Carbon Offsets - What exactly IS it?!

If you spend a bit of time researching the climate crisis, the words “carbon offset” may come up.  It's the newest trendy word used in the sustainability fight. So what exactly does it mean? Does it actually have an impact on the climate?

The most simple definition of carbon offset is “a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere,” (

A good way to look at it is as an accounting system. For each ton of carbon that is put out (by an individual or company), you would then buy that amount in carbon offsets. Carbon offsets can be a multitude of different things from companies that will plant trees or work towards restoring natural ecosystems. 

If you just put the word carbon offset into google, 100’s companies will pop up that market carbon offsets. But as you dig deeper into what it actually means to offset your carbon, you see the grand illusion that has been curated, much like the recycling industry. 

Carbon Footprint

To better understand carbon offsets, we first need to understand what a carbon footprint is. 

“A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world,” (

To avoid the 2-degree celsius rise in global temperatures (the tipping point of climate change), the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050. Currently, we have a global carbon footprint of nearly 4 tons. 

For example, when a t-shit is made, it creates indirect emissions at different points in the supply chain. Everything from growing the cotton, shipping the raw materials, emissions from the factory the final product is created in, and later, the decomposition in a landfill contributes to the carbon footprint of the consumer, and company. 

Carbon Offsets

The misleading thing about offsetting your carbon is that individuals and/or companies aren't actually *reducing* their carbon emissions. Offsets don’t erase the carbon emissions, they just put money towards environmental causes such as planting trees, or investing in green energy. Many companies use offsets to market that they are “environmentally friendly”. A whole myriad of companies uses this tactic from airline companies to oil companies. As you dig deeper, you begin to see the bigger picture. 

Carbon offsets give space for big companies that pollute, to continue doing what they do. They can continue to have a massive carbon footprint, but ease public weariness by stating they are “offsetting their carbon.” 

 To actually have any impact on climate change, we need global systemic changes. We must hold big polluters accountable. However, that does not mean that offsetting carbon isn’t worth it! Especially on a small scale. You can offset your own carbon from your home. Check out this calculator to see what your impact is. 

As for a company that purchases carbon offset credits, we are a fan of Nori. In fact, TORRAIN will be offsetting our shipping with offsets purchased from NORI. You can see more on their website here.

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