What is a carbon offset?
“A carbon offset is a project implemented specifically to reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Offsets are so named because they counteract or offset the purchaser’s GHG emissions.” (Source: Climate Trust) The important thing to realize about a carbon offset is that it does not reduce your actual event emissions. It allows you to be responsible for those emissions you can’t avoid.
Carbon offsets projects can take a variety of forms including:
• Investment in renewable energy, such as solar or wind power.
• Energy efficiency projects, such as retrofitting buildings with energy efficient systems
• Tree planting which will absorb emissions from the atmosphere.
How do I start?
Steps to providing a carbon offset program for a meeting generally involve:
1. Finding an offset partner organization
2. Working with the partner to estimate conference emissions (travel and venue energy?
3. Ascribing a dollar value to the emissions footprint
4. Engaging a sponsor, delegates or your organization to ‘buy’ the offset
It is important to consider the fit with your organization. A few questions to ask are:
– Will members be accepting of the option?
– Should the program be voluntary or mandatory?
– Is selecting one offset program too restrictive?
– Does the offset project need to be local? Is location important?
How can we fund a carbon offset program?
There are a few scenarios for funding carbon-offset programs that meeting managers currently employ.
– One option is to use the program as a sponsorship opportunity and publicize that the sponsoring company has offset the entire event’s greenhouse gas emissions. This strategy gains powerful recognition for both the sponsor and for the event.
-A second scenario is to ask attendees to offset their own travel by contributing a specific amount as part of their registration fee. Make their contribution optional. Then, those who participate will be taking an active role in contributing to improving the environment.
– A third option is to include the offset as part of the conference budget and let attendees know that the organization is doing this on their behalf.
Up next…picking a carbon offset provider in this wild, unregulated industry.