In a previous article, we covered what you need to know about carbon offsets. The TL;DR: To counterbalance—or offset—emissions, carbon credits allow organizations and individuals to finance carbon removal or carbon reduction projects. In that same article, we acknowledged why offsets get a bad rap, “if offsets are the only solution to curb your carbon footprint, rather than part of a broader strategy, climate change impact will remain business as usual.”
While Sustain.Life offers vetted carbon offset projects for CO2emissions you can’t yet mitigate, we take things a step further. We believe in a future where you won’t need to purchase offsets because you’ll have tools to help you practice emission reductions from the start.
Here’s how carbon credits work on Sustain.Life
Complete one of our carbon calculators for, say, your commuting or business travel, and we offer you high-quality carbon credit projects to offset those emissions. But we take it one step further and give you tailored guidance so you can take action to curb your emissions-generating behavior in the first place.
The types of carbon offset projects available on Sustain.Life
Improved forest management (IFM)
Improved forrest management (IFM) projects focus on sustainable forestry practices to create healthier forests, enhance natural regeneration, and increase carbon sequestration beyond “business as usual” scenarios. These practices can include modifying logging practices to reduce impact on forests or forest management techniques to improve resilience against pests, diseases, or fires. Examples include selective logging, extended rotation periods, thinning, controlled burns, etc. In addition to maintaining or enhancing carbon sequestration, IFM projects can also support biodiversity conservation and provide socio-economic benefits to local communities.
Industrial process emissions reduction
Industrial process emissions reduction projects aim to reduce GHG emissions from various industrial activities through process optimization, technology upgrades, using lower emission materials, or refurbishing products. This not only avoids emissions but also contributes to resource conservation and a circular economy by reducing the need for new materials.
Renewable fuel switch
Switching from a carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal to renewable or lower emissions alternatives reduces GHG emissions. The primary goal of these projects is to cut emissions by using fuels that emit no GHGs or significantly less than fossil fuels. Additional benefits can include reduced air pollution, improved community health, and decreased local deforestation.
Grasslands and wetlands are important ecosystems that support a large variety of plant and animal species. Simply put, avoided conversion projects help ecosystems that were otherwise slated for conversion—often into cropland—stay intact. These projects protect these critical ecosystems while avoiding the release of GHG emissions to the atmosphere that would occur if the land was cultivated.
Organizations can support and create sustainable development and energy practices by getting their energy efficiency projects (e.g., installing solar panels) and technology verified by a third party. They can also sell the resulting credits. Energy efficiency projects compensate for your unavoidable emissions because they help fund those operational efficiencies for companies that sell their remaining credits. Energy efficiency carbon credits also support the development of products that those companies can then sell to others to be more efficient (e.g., a retrofit kit that makes an AC unit more efficient).
Biomass with carbon removal and storage (BiCRS)
BiCRS is a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) approach that converts biomass such as algae or wood residues into forms suitable for long-term CO2 removal and storage. This could be underground or in stable, long-lived products such as biochar or concrete. It differs from Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) in that the primary focus of BiCRS is carbon removal rather than energy production. It also aims to contribute positively to local communities and biodiversity and minimize the harmful social and environmental impacts that BECCS can sometimes drive.
Ozone-depleting substances (ODS), such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are most common in some refrigerants and fire suppression equipment. Because the global warming potential (GWP) of ODS is much higher than that of CO2, destroying them with heat yields a net emissions reduction. These projects are focused on destroying or reclaiming these substances, reducing their harmful impact to the atmosphere and ozone layer. Replacing ODS with alternatives through equipment retrofits is another way to remove them from circulation.
Sustainable grasslands management
Sustainable grasslands projects aim to boost the carbon sequestration capacity of grasslands by implementing sustainable management practices. This can include rotational or controlled grazing, revegetation, soil health enhancements, and more. These practices increase the amount of carbon that grasslands can absorb, conserve natural ecosystems for local flora and fauna, and improve water regulation. Some projects may also provide socio-economic benefits for local communities.
Improved agricultural land management projects incentivize a variety of sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices such as optimizing fertilizer use, limiting soil disturbance by reducing tillage, improving livestock management, and rotating crops. Implementing these practices enhance soil carbon sequestration, reduce GHG emissions like nitrous oxide (from fertilizers) and methane (from livestock), and boosts overall soil health. Additionally, these projects can help improve water management, air quality, and biodiversity, as well as provide economic benefits for farmers via better crop yields and financial incentives.
Some rocks and silicate materials—like peridotite, wollastonite, and olivine—naturally absorb and mineralize carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a process that can span decades. Grinding up these rocks creates more surface area, which speeds weatherization, thus absorbing more CO2. Mineralization projects convert CO2 into stable mineral carbonates that can store carbon for thousands of years. Mineralization can also be integrated into industrial processes such as cement manufacturing, where it can reduce the carbon intensity of the manufacturing process.
Seaweed, like other plants, sequesters CO2 from the atmosphere. Seaweek sinking projects collect masses of seaweed and transport it to ocean depths of 2,000m or more, where it becomes part of the seabed. By sinking the seaweed to the ocean floor at these depths, the carbon contained within it is effectively stored for the long-term (more than 100 years). Certain types of seaweed, such as Sargassum, are also harmful to marine ecosystems and local communities, and removing it can provide additional environmental and socio-economic benefits.
Before you start supporting carbon credit projects, we recommend starting with measuring your business's current carbon footprint using a business carbon footprint calculator.