Best Carbon Offset Programs

Offset your environmental impact

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Carbon offset programs are used by individuals and businesses to neutralize their carbon emissions. The carbon offset projects offered by these programs are intended to provide real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon offset programs allow individuals or companies to invest in carbon offset projects, locally or internationally, as a way of balancing their carbon footprint. For example, an individual can invest money in a wind power project in Costa Rica to offset the amount of carbon produced by their daily commute. A business may choose to invest in programs to offset employees’ air travel or the carbon required to deliver their products. 

Read on to see the results of our chosen list of the best carbon offset programs. We considered 20 different carbon offset programs and compared them on a variety of features, including the type and quality of projects offered, the transparency of the providers’ operations, and if the projects are third-party verified.

The Best Carbon Offset Programs for 2021

Best Overall : Native Energy

Native Energy

 Native Energy

Native Energy is our best overall selection because it is truly a leader among carbon offset programs. Native Energy is established, having been around since 2000, and is third-party verified, transparent, and committed to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance. Customers can feel confident that their money is making a difference when they work with Native Energy.

Pros
  • Certified B Corp

  • Public Benefit Corp

  • Third-party verified

  • Transparent about offset quality

Cons
  • Website not as user friendly as some of its competitors

Native Energy is our winner for best overall carbon offset program because of its longevity and leadership in the carbon offset space. Native Energy was founded in 2000 and has since worked with hundreds of organizations to develop solutions to sustainability challenges. The Native Energy team comprises a diverse number of specialists including scientists, engineers, and legal counselors. 

In 2016, Native Energy became a Certified B Corp which means it has met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. In 2017, Native Energy was recognized as a Certified B Corp Best for the World Company. In 2018, it was also named as a Public Benefit Corporation. B Corps are businesses that are recognized as having high standards for social and environmental programs. 

Native Energy offers a wide range of project options for both businesses and individuals. It also has calculators specific to small businesses and individuals. Small businesses can use its facility, travel, event, or freight calculators to calculate emissions, offset by dollar, or offset by tons of CO2. Similarly, individuals can access travel, household, or events calculators which can be used to determine their carbon footprint for particular activities. The calculator will provide the cost required to offset the carbon footprint and that can be invested into a carbon offset project.  

For further transparency and accountability, Native Energy provides information on how it assesses additionality. Additionality proves that the buyer is purchasing is making a true difference. Native Energy also validates all of its carbon offsets using the following third-party standards:

  • Gold Standard
  • Verified Carbon Standard
  • Climate Action Reserve
  • American Carbon Registry
  • Plan Vivo
  • The Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance

Projects:

  • Clean water
  • Nature-based
  • On-farm
  • Regenerative AG
  • Removals (CDR)/Drawdown
  • Renewable energy

Best for Businesses : 3Degrees

3Degrees

 3Degrees

3Degrees is our pick for the best carbon offset program for businesses because its carbon offset projects are specifically targeted at helping businesses and utilities decarbonize their operations.

Pros
  • Certified B Corporation

  • Transparent

  • Projects are third-party verified

Cons
  • No projects available for individuals

3Degrees was chosen as the best carbon offset program for businesses because of its specialized focus on businesses and utilities and its industry-focused projects. 3Degrees was founded in 2007 with the belief that businesses must play a central role in solving the global climate crisis. Since that time, 3Degrees has supported the launch of the first voluntary community solar programs in the U.S., executed the first voluntary Renewable Energy Certificate option trade in the U.S., and initiated some of the earliest renewable natural gas transactions in the U.S. 

According to 3Degrees, it is the leading North American carbon specialist. It specializes in two project category areas: carbon reduction projects and carbon removal projects. 3Degrees is also a Certified B Corporation which means they are held to a high standard when it comes to social and environmental performance. 

Sustainability is a large part of 3Degrees' own operation. 3Degrees offsets all emissions that result from employee business travel and commuting. It also subsidized public transportation costs for its full-time employees. Additionally, 3Degrees purchases Water Restoration Credits to cover the footprint of its business and it matches 100% of its company-wide electricity use with renewable energy certificates. 

Projects: 

  • SF6
  • Agricultural methane capture/combustion
  • Wind power
  • Forest management
  • Solar power
  • Oil recycling
  • Energy efficiency 
  • Emission reduction
  • Biogas
  • Landfill gas methane capture and destruction

Best for Tourism Businesses : Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel International

 Sustainable Travel International

We chose Sustainable Travel International as the best carbon offset program for tourism businesses because it is committed to protecting the world’s most vulnerable travel destinations and the people that live there.

Pros
  • Quality assurance

  • Third-party verification

  • Projects align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

  • Easy-to-use air travel carbon footprint calculator

Cons
  • Limited educational materials

Our winner for best carbon offset program for tourism businesses is Sustainable Travel International. It claims this spot because of its commitment to integrate a more sustainable model of tourism. Since 2002, Sustainable Travel International has been working to change the travel and tourism industry. Its mission is simply to minimize the negative effects of tourism and maximize the positive benefits. 

Sustainable Travel International promotes travel that leads to a healthier environment, the protection of natural resources, and greater social justice. Rather than prioritizing excessive visitor growth and short-term gains, Sustainable Travel International is focused on the long-term environmental and human impacts of tourism. It partners with governments and policymakers to guide them on how to implement strategies that support a more sustainable model of tourism.

Sustainable Travel International provides carbon offset projects for businesses and individuals. Businesses can request a carbon footprint assessment or develop a customized carbon offset program. Its projects are focused on forest and biodiversity, clean and efficient energy, blue carbon, and the assistance of local communities from around the world. 

To ensure its carbon offset projects are legitimate and meet the highest standards, Sustainable Travel International works with third-party verifiers. All projects are verified by at least one standard, including:

  • Gold Standard
  • Verified Carbon Standard
  • The Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance
  • Plan Vivo
  • Climate Action Reserve
  • American Carbon Registry

If you invest with Sustainable Travel International, you don’t have to worry about whether or not your money is funding a legitimate project. 

Projects:

  • Biodigesters
  • Wind farm
  • Forests
  • Water filters
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+)

Best for Monthly Subscriptions : terrapass

Terrapass

 Terrapass

We chose terrapass as the best carbon offset program for monthly subscriptions because it offers a useful Carbon Balanced Business Plan that allows companies to support carbon reduction projects on a monthly subscription basis.

Pros
  • Multiple calculators for individuals, businesses, and specific to events

  • Certified by Green-e Energy and other third parties

  • Monthly subscription

Cons
  • Out-of-date project portfolio

Terrapass wins best carbon offset program for monthly subscriptions because it makes carbon offsetting easy for individuals and businesses with its monthly subscription model. Terrapass was launched in 2004 as a way to help everyday people reduce their carbon footprint while driving. Soon after, terrapass expanded its portfolio into greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors including air travel and energy consumption. Since starting, terrapass has now helped over 1,000 businesses, institutions, and individuals take responsibility for their impact on the climate. 

In addition to helping individuals and corporations offset their carbon usage, terrapass is also on a mission to help educate the public on what climate change is, why it matters, and how small changes in our own lives can add up over time. The terrapass website is easy to navigate and provides useful carbon calculators for individuals, businesses, and special events.

Terrapass has pre-packaged bundles and monthly subscription services that make it easy for businesses and individuals to take a stand against climate change. Terrapass uses the average carbon emissions per employee plus the number of employees in your company to produce a monthly subscription fee that is then invested in carbon offsetting programs. It’s an easy way for small businesses to reduce their climate impact on a monthly basis. 

You can feel confident using terrapass, as its entire offset portfolio is subject to independent third-party review, including:

  • Gold Standard
  • Verified Carbon Standard
  • Climate Action Reserve
  • American Carbon Registry

Projects:

  • Landfill gas capture
  • Abandoned coal mines methane capture
  • Wind power
  • Organic waste management
  • Farm power
  • BEF Water Restoration Certificate

Best for Multiple Environmental Impact Options : myclimate

myclimate

myclimate

We chose myclimate as the best carbon offset program for multiple environmental impact options because of its wide variety of projects, from biogas to energy efficiency, wind, water, forestry, and solar waste management. In addition to carbon offset, myclimate has also helped to create jobs and improve the living conditions of people around the world.

Pros
  • Easy-to-use carbon footprint calculators

  • Education programs

  • Transparency

  • Third-party certified

  • Wide range of projects

Cons
  • Clunky user-experience on the website

myclimate’s extensive and diverse portfolio of carbon offset projects is why it stands out as the best carbon offset program for multiple environment impact options. Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, myclimate is an award-winning not-for-profit carbon offset program. Since its start, myclimate has conducted 125 projects in 37 countries around the world. Myclimate has also created thousands of jobs and improved the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of people through its project work. 

One of myclimates’ major efforts is education and providing action-orientated educational programs. Today, myclimate has reached over 25,000 schoolchildren and 10,000 trainees in Switzerland as well as an additional 1,600 students and young professionals in its global network. 

Myclimate serves a wide range of customers including private individuals, not-for-profit organizations, and companies of every size. You can feel confident that your money is being used to combat CO2 emissions, as myclimate only invests in projects that deliver measurable and long-term success. It only makes offset payments to supported projects once the reductions have been made. All myclimate projects adhere to third-party quality standards such as:

  • Gold Standard
  • Plan Vivo
  • Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

Projects: 

  • Biogas
  • Biomass
  • Efficient cookstoves
  • Energy efficiency
  • Hydropower
  • Land use and forestry
  • Solar waste management and compost
  • Water (purification and saving)
  • Wind

Best for E-Commerce and Micro-Contributions : Carbon Checkout

Carbon Checkout

 Carbon Checkout

Carbon Checkout is a plug-in software app that can integrate into existing e-commerce stores, allowing customers to invest in carbon offset as they shop. Simply put, Carbon Checkout makes carbon offset easy.

Pros
  • Great user experience

  • Easy integration

  • Third-party verified

  • Transparency

Cons
  • Limited selection of projects to choose from

  • No carbon footprint calculator on the website

Carbon Checkout is great for e-commerce businesses that want to elevate their brand by supporting an important cause—carbon offset. Carbon Checkout launched its Shopify app in 2015 and has since grown to be one of the world’s leading carbon offset retail distribution networks. It currently operates in over 37 countries and has partnered with thousands of e-commerce merchants to provide millions of customers the opportunity to efficiently support carbon offset projects. For this reason and more, it is our top pick for best offset program for e-commerce and micro-contributions. 

For e-commerce businesses, the integration is super easy. Carbon Checkout can integrate into your site in one click. Your customers will then be given the option to balance the carbon footprint of their orders. Contributions are added to customers’ carts and collected at checkout. Participating customers will then receive an email with a unique hyperlink verification code that can be used to access their personal Carbon Portfolio on the Carbon Checkout website. Here, they can track their carbon offset contributions. All Carbon Checkout contributions are pooled to fund renewable energy projects to reduce carbon emissions. 

All investments made with Carbon Checkout go to projects that are third-party validated and independently audited and tracked. 

Projects:

  • Wind 
  • Solar

Bottom Line

When choosing a carbon offset program, it’s important to validate that the program is striving to meet the highest standards in the industry. You can do this by choosing a carbon offset program that practices additionality, permanence, no double-counting, and is third-party verified. You can also consider whether you want a company that supports projects in your local area or one that is invested in international projects. 

Native Energy is a great option because of its longevity in the carbon offset space and its commitment to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance. If you're looking for a program that specializes in businesses of all sizes, then 3Degrees is a great option. If you’d like to integrate cause-related marketing into your e-commerce business, then Carbon Checkout can help you to do that.

Compare Providers

  Company   Why We Picked It   Key Highlights
Native Energy Best Overall Founded in 2000, Certified B Corp
3Degrees Best for Businesses Pioneer in climate solutions, Certified B Corp
Sustainable Travel International Best for Tourism Businesses Projects align with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
terrapass Best for Monthly Subscriptions Certified by Green-e Energy
myclimate Best for Multiple Environmental Impact Options Global education programs
Carbon Checkout Best for E-Commerce and Micro-Contributions Integrates cause marketing

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Carbon Offsets?

A carbon offset is any activity that leads to a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases to compensate for emissions made somewhere else. In other words, you pay someone else to cancel out your carbon emissions by investing in projects that reduce carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions. 

Do Carbon Offset Programs Work?

The impact of a carbon offset program depends on how reputable the program you invest in is. Programs that adhere to strict standards and offer complete transparency are capable of making a real difference. There are also examples of programs that don’t live up to their promises, and in these cases, the carbon offset program does not work. This is why it is important to research the carbon offset program before you invest. There are scams out there, so it is best to look for a program that is third-party verified. 

There can also be natural reasons that prevent a carbon offset program from working. For example, if a carbon offset project plants a forest as a way of storing carbon dioxide and then there is a forest fire, that forest has now become a source of carbon dioxide. 

If you really want to make a difference, not engaging in carbon-creating activities such as flying would make more of a difference. But, purchasing carbon offsets is better than doing nothing. 

How Can I Purchase Carbon Offsets?

There are several ways you can purchase carbon offsets. You can purchase them from some airlines that offer sustainability programs, online carbon offset programs, and not-for-profits. Some retailers even offer customers the ability to purchase carbon offsets when cashing out during online shopping. 

How Much Does a Carbon Offset Cost?

Carbon offset prices vary greatly based on many factors such as whether or not the project is third-party verified, the location of the project, and the volume of the purchase. According to a report by Ecosystem Marketplace, the average carbon offset price is between $3 to $6 per ton but can range anywhere from $0.1 to over $70 per ton. 

What Are Some Examples of Carbon Offsets?

There are many ways that carbon offsets work. Some examples of carbon offsets include: 

  • Methane gas capture in a landfill
  • Creation of wind farms
  • Forest conservation
  • Clean cookstoves
  • Solar energy
  • Hydropower 

Methodology 

When determining the best carbon offset program, we reviewed 20 alternatives and considered several criteria, including adherence to transparency, the offset quality of its projects, the range of projects offered, if it prioritizes education, the usability of the website, and if it provides carbon footprint calculators. 

Our review process gave preference to companies that hold themselves to high standards of social and environmental integrity as demonstrated in the programs that are Certified B Corporations. We also only included carbon offset programs that were third-party verified, as verification is a crucial step in confirming that the carbon offset project is providing real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Article Sources

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  1. Ecosystem Marketplace. "Voluntary Carbon Markets Insights: 2018 Outlook and First-Quarter Trends." Accessed February 19, 2021.