Carbon Offsets: The Next Hot Trend in Energy Savings

August 1, 2007

Insulation industry professionals are naturally interested in the latest news and trends in saving energy because insulation is a proven energy saver, and an easy way to reduce energy expenses and preserve the global environment. Many businesses have incorporated insulation, along with other environment-friendly approaches, into their strategic plans. For example, the Subaru manufacturing plant in Lafayette, Indiana, was the first auto assembly plant to achieve zero landfill status: Nothing from its manufacturing efforts goes into a landfill—everything discarded is reused and recycled. Industrial Woodworking Corporation (IWC) recently announced that it has offset 100 percent of its carbon emissions from electrical and natural gas use, management’s air travel, and corporate vehicles through’s CarbonFree™ business program. Other CarbonFree partners with include Dell, Orbitz, and Lancôme.

These companies are taking voluntarily, proactive steps to reduce the global carbon load through conservation and carbon offsets, and many individuals are following suit. With carbon offsets, individuals or companies pay someone else to reduce, or “offset,” their greenhouse gas emissions because they are unable or unwilling to reduce their own emissions. A popular—and somewhat controversial—example is planting trees to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions. Several websites now allow people to pay money toward renewable energy efforts, such as wind energy farms or solar energy projects, to counterbalance their use of more traditional—and polluting—energy sources.

Here’s how it works:
  • Choose a reputable website that offers carbon offsets that are third-party verified to reduce the equivalent of the necessary amount of carbon dioxide pollution.
  • Calculate your carbon footprint by determining how much carbon dioxide you are responsible for emitting (in your home, car, or on airplane flights).
  • Select a carbon offset product based on the amount of emissions, translated to a dollar amount, that you want to counterbalance with your purchase. You can make the simple purchase online with your credit card.
When choosing carbon offsets, be sure to look for the following factors:
  • Transparency. The offset provider should clearly explain the energy projects it contributes to and offer tangible proof that those projects have a positive impact.
  • Additionality. It is critical that the offset contributions actually prompt an organization to do something it would not have done otherwise.
  • Verification. The most reputable carbon offsets have been independently verified by a credible third party. While there is no clear standard for validating carbon offset projects, the Gold Standard—based on Kyoto Protocol criteria, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world—is widely accepted. (For more information on the Kyoto Protocol and Japan’s new proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, please visit
  • Project type. The best projects work toward developing alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar energy, to eventually replace more pollution-heavy energy producers.
  • Approach. The group providing the offset also should provide education. It should offer information on how to reduce your carbon footprint before you buy carbon offsets.1

Carbon offsets are a major trend among environmentally conscious public figures, including Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cameron Diaz. At the 79th annual Academy Awards, presenters and performers received 100,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions from TerraPass’ suite of verified clean energy projects. Celebrity endorsements not only help reduce the carbon footprint of the world’s jet-setters, but they shed some spotlight on this popular new way to improve the environment.

The insulation industry focuses on energy savings every day. Now, that same level of responsibility is possible on a corporate or personal level. To calculate your carbon footprint or learn more about carbon offsets, visit the websites listed in Kyoto + 10: Carbon Credits and the Countdown to Compliance. As part of a broader effort to save energy and provide a greener future for generations to come, this energy-saving trend is definitely aligned with at least one major insulation industry goal.