How to Get Started with Carbon Offsetting

Cool Effect
Cool Effect
Published in
5 min readApr 19, 2023

One of the key principles behind Cool Effect is that every action, no matter how small, has the potential to have a tremendous impact. When individuals unite passionately for a cause, there’s nothing the power of collective action can’t accomplish — but that doesn’t mean we’re discounting the tremendous impact brands, businesses, and organizations can have in the fight against climate change.

When just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of total global emissions, the top 15 food and beverage companies in the U.S. emit more carbon emissions than Australia, and yet over 70% of Fortune 500 companies don’t have an actual plan in place to fight climate change by 2030, it’s clear that inspiring brands and businesses to take climate action isn’t just a nice idea — it’s a necessity.

The good news? More now than ever before, companies are stepping away from empty, greenwashing pledges and leaning into actual, measurable actions that are helping reduce carbon emissions on a grand scale. Some, like our friends at DYPER, American Airlines, Salesforce, and Nuun have taken the steps needed by reducing their footprints and then relying on verifiable carbon offsets to get them to the finish line. Others, like the carbon-neutral New Belgium Brewing, aren’t just walking the walk — they’re aggressively demanding that other companies follow suit.

There are amazing carbon projects all over the world doing good for the planet and its people — like this agricultural project in India — but choosing the right one for your business can often feel like an overwhelming task.

But regardless of the size, structure, or current footprint of your business, the process of creating standards and protocols to make your company carbon neutral look very similar. No matter what, the process begins with understanding the total emissions generated by your brand and tracking where you can make some reductions. Once you’re armed with those key data points, you can begin to take actionable strides towards actionably reducing the carbon footprint of your business.

Understanding Carbon Footprint For Businesses: The Basics

To have a true view of your complete corporate carbon footprint, every aspect of your business needs to be taken into account — from business trips (remember those?) to the amount of paper you use. Here’s a little secret on how the big companies typically do it.

Large companies divide their emissions into three types: Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3:

Scope 1: These are emissions that arise directly from sources that are owned or controlled by an organization — vehicles, fuels used in boilers, etc. Typically, these emissions can be reduced through some simple improvements in efficiency and conservation.

Scope 2: These are the emissions generated by the purchased electricity consumed by the organization. These emissions can be eliminated by switching to renewable (zero carbon) sources of energy.

Scope 3: These emissions are a consequence of the activities of an organization, but they occur from sources not owned or controlled by the organization. They include things like emissions associated with waste, water, business travel (including air travel, commuting, purchased good, services, and fuel) and any energy-related activities not included in Scope 1 or 2. These emissions are generally not inherently reducible but can be greatly lessened or even eliminated by offsetting.

Now that you know the basics, let’s crunch some numbers.

How to Calculate Your Company’s Carbon Footprint

Once you’ve got a handle on your brand’s emissions emission data, you should be able to get a high level look at your footprint and identify where most of your carbon is produced. One important thing to keep in mind — in order to get an accurate calculation, try to ensure that all data collected is done within the same specified timeframe (typically per month or per year). The next step is to multiply your use figures by the appropriate emission factor to each category in order to determine the number of metric tons of CO2 emitted.

We know that sounds complicated. That’s why we he have a handy calculator available, ready to make those calculations as simple as possible.

How Can a Company Reduce Their Carbon Footprint?

Once you know your emissions in tonnes, you can set a goal as to how much carbon you can/would like to reduce per year, then offset the emissions remaining. The mantra we like to follow at Cool Effect is to “Do your best, then offset the rest.” There are many small steps you can take to achieve sustainability that don’t require a significant investment.

How Do Companies Become Carbon Neutral?

You can boil most business-related emissions to two major categories: energy and transportation.

Energy

This is the dominant source of carbon emissions for any organization, but lowering it could be as simple as making a phone call to your utilities provider and asking to switch to renewable energy sources. In many parts of the U.S. renewable energy is widely available, and it is easy to sign on. Prices may be only a few cents higher than regular energy, and some providers allow the purchase of partial green so that if the price difference does affect operations, the change-over can be a gradual one.

But it’s not just knowing how much energy your company consumes — you’ll also need to break down how that energy is used. This is key for finding areas where you can reduce energy consumption without severely impacting your operations. This can be as simple as turning out lights, raising (or lowering) thermostats, and insulating pipes, or it can be as complicated as moving servers to lower power during off peak times.

Transportation

Transportation as a whole is one of the largest sectors contributing to global warming.

Even as the world continues to adapt and change, embracing remote work and Zoom screens, this remains serious emitter for any brand or business to consider when looking to reduce their footprint. Our forced time working remotely has shown employees that there are some benefits of video conferencing, and they’re easier than ever. Instead of traveling cross-country on a plane to negotiate a business deal, we can now conduct video conference from anywhere, and it’s easier than ever. This tactic can significantly impact your company’s carbon footprint, not to mention the reduction in overhead from travel expenses. Should air travel be necessary, make sure you offset your travel.

If your company plans on requiring 100% in-person attendance going forward, consider a carpooling initiative. If you have several employees who can alternate driving to work, your company’s daily travel emissions will be effectively reduced by half. Businesses can also consider employee programs that incentivize the use of public transportation.

Want to Know More?

Got questions, ideas, or just need a little help getting started? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at business@cooleffect.org.

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Cool Effect
Cool Effect

We’ve reduced over 8 million tonnes of carbon emissions. And we’re just getting started.