What is a Carbon Offset?

Learn about the world's best tool to immediately fight the climate crisis.

by Greenwashed

What is a Carbon Offset?
Photo by Imat Bagja Gumilar / Unsplash


If you havenโ€™t noticed, the climate crisis is getting out of hand.

Many people have been searching for solutions that could help fight the harmful effects of our changing climate. One of the most promising is carbon offsets.


A carbon offset is a certificate that proves the reduction or removal of harmful emissions.

One offset is issued for every tonne of carbon pulled from the atmosphere.

Itโ€™s important to note that a carbon offset differs from a carbon credit, another tool used for environmental accountability.

Quick History

Offsets were born in 1997 when world leaders gathered to address the issues with our climate. The result was the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to limit how much greenhouse gas developed countries can emit. Part of this agreement was the creation of carbon markets.

Today, carbon offsets have evolved to become more impactful. Advances in technology and a greater focus on human impact have led to higher-quality offsets. Current industry standards highlight the added benefits of buying and creating offsets.

Many bad actors took advantage of a new market in the early stages. Like any industry, carbon offsets have their faults, but today's standards are much more impactful and regenerative than before.


Three easy steps describe the path of a carbon offset:

  1. Projects ranging from individual efforts to large-scale operations generate carbon offsets.
  2. Buyers who wish (or are required) to counter the effect of their emissions purchase offsets. The money the projects receive goes toward funding the creation of more offsets.
  3. Finally, the offsets are retired and permanently removed from the open market. Retirement ensures that nobody gets credit for emissions somebody else already has reduced.

At each step of this process, an independent third party, called a registry, ensures that each carbon offset is legitimate and generates real climate action.


The term โ€œcarbon offsetโ€ may not be in everyoneโ€™s vocabulary yet, but in recent years, there has been a rise in demand.

As the world continues to grapple with climate change, businesses turn to carbon offsets to reduce their impact on the environment, leading the carbon offset market to grow past $1 billion in 2021. Many analysts expect this market to grow exponentially as the climate crisis worsens.

Despite the boom, not everyone is convinced about the carbon offset market.

The market currently operates with a flawed model, preventing it from growing to the level required to slow the effects of the climate crisis. Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem, giving us hope for the future.


A carbon offset represents reducing or removing harmful emissions from the atmosphere.

Across the world, from individuals to corporations, offsets have become a popular way to slow harmful climate impacts and drive money toward climate-positive action. The climate crisis is incredibly complex, and while offsets don't represent a perfect solution, they represent progress.

If youโ€™re interested in getting involved or want to learn more, consider subscribing below or offsetting your emissions here.