Frequently asked Questions
Becoming carbon neutral means an organization has made an effort to avoid as many emissions as possible and has offset those remaining—reducing their overall footprint to net-zero. This is achieved through three steps: calculating the carbon footprint, reducing emissions where possible, and offsetting the remaining and unavoidable GHGs. Once an organization has reached net-zero emissions through this process, it can be designated as Carbon Neutral by Offsetters. See our Engage page to learn more about this process.
Ostrom makes sure our footprint calculations abide by best practices and standards such as The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, published by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and ISO 14064.
No, they are not. Carbon offsets are not charitable donations; they are a purchase to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. They help with the transition to a low carbon economy by creating a financial incentive for companies/people to create emissions reductions that would not happen otherwise. Carbon offsets are considered a financial instrument/purchase and are therefore taxed normally, so there is no tax-deductible on them.
High-quality offset projects have been validated and verified by a third-party assurance provider to meet all the requirements of the offset project’s rigorous standards, including:
- Within scope: the emission reductions are for eligible GHGs (i.e., CO2e).
- Real: the reductions are derived from specific and identifiable actions, are associated with defined projects, and the projects result in a net reduction of GHG emissions.
- Measurable: the difference between the baselines and the projects can be scientifically measured using methods that maintain the principles of accuracy and conservativeness.
- Additional: the baselines represent conservative estimates of the most likely emissions scenarios that would have occurred in the absence of the offset mechanism. Projects must result in emissions reductions beyond the baseline scenario (i.e., they have to prove that the reductions would not have occurred without the offset project)`.
- Verifiable: project plans have been developed, have been validated by an independent assurance provider, and will be verified by an independent assurance provider in accordance with the relevant offset standard.
- Counted Once: the reductions have not already been claimed and will only be counted once as an emission offset.
- Permanent: The emissions reductions are lasting and cannot be reversed.
- Leakage: We factor all potential sources of emissions into the carbon accounting of our projects. For example, if a project uses a lower emissions fuel source but requires trucking, then we take the additional transportation emissions into our accounting of the total emissions savings.
- Inconsistent Timescale: Our projects ensure emissions reductions occur immediately—within the year you buy the offsets or earlier.
They are extremely important in decreasing the amount of harvesting that can take place in the project area, thereby reducing GHG emissions. It’s a win-win! These projects can establish legally protected conservation areas, and implement a set of land-use objectives that must be met.
Not all offsets are created equal. To ensure that an offset project will create real impact, third-party verification, additionality, and permanence are key. Projects that do not guarantee these requirements do not successfully reduce emissions. The following standards have strict criteria that ensure the quality of the offset projects we develop for you:
- Gold Standard
- Verra’s VCS
- Climate Action Reserve (CAR)
- BC’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Control Regulation
These forest carbon projects play a vital role in maintaining well-functioning ecosystems, such as enhancing biodiversity, water, and other environmental services that we all depend on. The creation of conservation and biodiversity areas continues to protect intact forests and healthy wildlife populations.
Tree planting projects can be helpful and should continue, but we cannot depend entirely on them to remove CO2 out of the atmosphere fast enough. Trees grow slowly – especially further away from the equator; it could take one tree up to 40 years to sequester one tonne of CO2. On average, human activity is estimated to emit as much as 40 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. That means we would have to plant 40 billion trees now, and wait at least 40 years to offset the emissions from only this year, and so on.
Forest conservation project can have a greater impact – immediately – since they protect large trees, which were slated to be cut, that capture larger amounts of CO2 each year. Forest conservation projects also protect the delicate balance of soil, plant and wildlife biodiversity that contributes to a healthy forest.
RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) and RNGs (Renewable Natural Gas credits) are purchased on top of a company’s electricity or heat purchase. The company is still purchasing its energy from the same source, but the provider selling the RECs and RNGs has to ensure that the equal amount of renewable energy is produced and sold on the customer’s behalf.
The major criticism of RECs is that they do not need to show additionality—the requirement to prove that the greenhouse gas emissions reductions wouldn’t have taken place without the purchase of a REC. Proof of additionality is a primary requirement of Ostrom’s offsets. RECs and RNGs aren’t over and above business-as-usual, and cannot therefore assure the same climate benefits as offsets.
If you didn’t see an answer to your Offsetting question above, feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to help.