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FAQs about carbon offsetting

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is a method by which individuals or businesses can compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions created by making a product or delivering a service by investing in another activity that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere  or that produces a lower amount of carbon dioxide than the ‘standard’ alternative.  The most common forms of offsets include tree planting, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and projects, investing in renewable energy technology, or waste diversion.

If we offset everything we do, can we do what we like?

Reducing carbon pollution is the best option – it’s obviously better not to put the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the first place. Carbon offsetting is not a substitute for taking steps to minimize emissions. Keep on reducing, reusing, recycling!

Carbon offsets are best used for situations where it’s not possible or feasible to avoid generating carbon emissions.  There are times when we have to fly, drive a car or host a public event  - in these cases, offsetting helps reduce our impact.

Is carbon offsetting the same as carbon neutral?

There isn’t actually a single, agreed-upon definition for the term ‘carbon neutral’.  Generally, a product or activity is ‘carbon neutral’ if zero carbon is emitted in the production or undertaking of that product/activity, or if the carbon emissions that have been created because of that product/activity have been 100% offset.  Thus, if the carbon emissions from a product or activity are only partially offset, it is not carbon neutral.

But I don’t buy drinks in aluminium cans – how does this apply to me?

We have used transport mileage as a way to illustrate the energy savings that come from recycling aluminium cans, but the same principle can be applied to lots of other situations. For example, recycling most materials saves energy, as does reducing food waste, The important message is that recycling your aluminium cans saves energy and resources.

More information

For more information on carbon offsetting, check out:

•    Carbon Offset Watch - independent assessors of Australian carbon offset providers.
•    Carbon Offset Guide - independent directory of Australian carbon offset providers

Both websites contain a variety of resources and educational pages on carbon offsetting.