Carbon Offsets

Business and personal travel, which we’ve been doing a lot of the last two weeks, is a big producer of carbon in the atmosphere. I’m actually writing this on a cross Atlantic flight.

But you can offset those carbon emissions fairly inexpensively

There are a number of services on the Internet that will help you do it.

Over the last four years the Gotham Gal and I have racked up about 570 tons of carbon via air travel.

Depending on how much we spend per ton to offset it, the coast could be as low as $10,000 or as high as $60,000.

At $10,000, that is about a 3% increase to our air travel costs. At $60,000, that is about a 20% increase to our air travel costs.

There are a lot of debates about how much it should cost to offset a ton of carbon. Right now it is inexpensive because the supply of offset projects is higher than the demand for them.

But at market equilibrium, the price should be a lot higher and many people offset at the theoretical market equilibrium price not the current market price.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this question about how much per ton you should pay for offsets. It depends on how you think about it.

Our flight today could cost as little as $100 to offset for both of us. Or as much as $600.

Either way, we are paying to reduce our carbon footprint and that is a good thing in our view.

If everyone started doing this, it would transform the carbon offset markets and lead to a lot of great projects, like reforestation and other approaches that would have a meaningful contribution to reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

#climate crisis

Comments (Archived):

  1. kidmercury

    this is quickly becoming my favorite topic since everyone is acting like the science is settled and only anti-science stupid people could possibly think carbon is not the greatest threat to humanity. to help put climate skeptics in a better light i’ll share some heroic contrarian scientists who dare to question the establishment narrative that we will all die imminently due to’s hero is dr patrick moore, PhD in ecology and co-founder of greenpeace, who in 2016 said there “is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years.”

    1. Mike Sheppard

      Your link “said” doesn’t connect.

      1. kidmercury

        thanks for the heads up; i’ve since fixed the broken link. you can find it here:

  2. William Mougayar

    I am going to get more educated on this topic, as I’m just getting off a short flight. I think your post was an eye opener.

  3. Richard

    Offsetting carbon emissions by paying $$ for others – supposedly – not to emit carbon – people will believe anything!PS I haven’t flown since 2014 – nor do I own a car – where is my carbon check?

  4. Peter Frank

    Is there a service that helps businesses pay off their carbon offsets via API? I feel like that would be a cool service to integrate into, say, a Shopify app.edit //

  5. AGM

    What do you use to purchase the carbon offsets? Have heard some of these providers are potentially fraudulent/sketchy.

    1. Toby Bryce

      I would be curious as to a reputable list here as well – both for an individual and is there a particular company that would be recommended at an enterprise level say if some sort of travel agency or other provider wanted to offer its customers the option to purchase offsets as part of a trip purchase.

  6. Christian Brucculeri

    Thanks – which service do you use? I haven’t decided on a provider, as I have heard some don’t actually create the offset.

  7. kenberger

    Fred, you know me, I’ve been on this blog since the beginning, and this is the first time I’m perplexed by a post of yours.Your (super well-meaning) strategy here reminds me of with one’s child pledging that every time you say a cuss word, you’ll put $1 into the kitty.Yet we can do soooo much more than that.I was lucky enough to attend an amazing event at Blueyard Capital in Berlin:…Blew my mind, and moved my feet.There are some very promising things to invest one’s money into RIGHT NOW to much better accomplish what we’re talking about here. My plan is to actually BOOST my air travel, and help raise more money and awareness on this sort of topic. Won’t be my full-time focus, but feels like actually a profitable endeavor, and I’m excited.

  8. Richard

    It we could offset carbon with $$, why wouldn’t the worlds richest believers do so.At its extreme why not pay those over 70 not accept any medical care ? This would save the world too.All those wasted healthcare $ to offset climate change.

  9. Richard

    There are 4 trillion cigarette buts filling our oceans, lakes and landfills – how about an offset for cigarette smokers?Or how about an offset for dog owners for all the Pooh left in the streets?The point is that all products have externalities – nothing wrong with taxes to pay for them -but call it what it is a TAX , it’s not an offset.

    1. Mike Sheppard

      An “offset” is a tax; yes. But, it is a tax that offsets the cost, in this case, of abusing our environment. Semantic quibbles don’t help us solve the problems that are looming before us. Let’s direct our efforts towards solving problems.

      1. Richard

        Fred called it an offset not a tax. I’m not opposed for taxes that pay for externalities. But carbon credits will end up hitting folks disproportionally. Use taxes could be used to take care of externalities, but it requires an educated consumer and people with skin in the game.Fred telling us that his 5 times a year air travel contributions to the greatest crisis to ever to hit mankind is somehow mitigated by paying someone 20% of the cost of travel is a solution seems disproportional. This is a fagazzi market place solution – that once mandates will expand faster than global climate change itself.

  10. JLM

    .Carbon offsets (cap & trade, et al) are right up there with the Easter Bunny and B Corporations. Imaginary constructs that are supposed to make one feel virtuous while accomplishing nothing. In fact, the Easter Bunny is more of a thing than carbon offsets.A bit of history.Carbon offsets/cap & trade traces its lineage to the infamous Kyoto Protocol of 1997 (meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — UNFCCC) that attempted to get the family of nations to agree to reduce emissions to 5% less than 1990 levels by the time period 2008-12. The stated objective was to limit the heating on the planet to below 2F.The first big problem is that China and India were exempted as being “developing.” The Russians and the USA did not sign on though 150 nations supposedly did. [I have never been able to identify the actual 150 nations though I have seen that number in print. I do know that both Iceland and Lichtenstein are in there.]Still, the language of carbon offsets and cap & trade was introduced to the world in this document.In fairly rapid fashion the following happened:1. In Nov 1998, we have the Buenos Aires Action Plan — which establishes that the UNFCCC/Kyoto Klan is going to have meetings in really cool places.2. In July 2001, we have the Bonn meeting and re-affirmation.3. November 2001, big powwow in Marrakech. Who doesn’t like Morocco in the winter?4. November 2004, Russia says, “We’re in.”5. February 2005, there are enough members that now the Kyoto Protocol takes effect. It took from 1997 to 2005 to get enough members. 6. December 2011, Canada drops out saying this is a bit scammy.7. December 2012, meeting in Doha, Qatar extends the Kyoto Protocol to 2020.8. June 2013, Afghanistan joins up. Deal was on the cusp until A’stan jumped in.9. At the UNFCCC meeting in Paris, the Paris Agreement replaces the Kyoto Protocol and the US signs it. Stated objective is still no more than 2F warming limit.Paris Agreement not only subsumes Kyoto Protocol, it has the USA writing huge checks to be distributed to the “little” countries, but still no real limitations on India, China.10. President Obama, by Executive Order, commits the US to the Paris Agreement and sends them a $3B check. Senate fails to notice that the US has entered into a “treaty” without the joinder of the Senate as required by the US Constitution.11. Candidate Trump and President Trump announce “Adios, Paris Agreement.” Everybody goes nuts.Of course nobody bothers to read the actual Paris Agreement that says it takes four years to pull the plug which means the US doesn’t get out until the time of the 2020 Presidential election. I predict you will hear a little more about that before the election.So — the USA is really not OUT of the Paris Agreement and won’t be until 2020.Nonetheless, the carbon offset industry takes off. There are two types of credits:1. Voluntary offsets2. Project related offsetsI own an airplane. I can fly in my airplane from Austin By God Texas to Charleston, SC in about 4.5 hours with a nice tailwind. [Once made it to Myrtle Beach in 3 hours with a 200 kt tailwind. ATC kept asking me to verify what kind of a plane I was because I was making 400 MPH ground speed]I also can drive to Charleston in my trusty Lexus SUV.If my plane consumes more fuel than my car, then I can create a “voluntary” offset by choosing to drive which — theoretically — uses less carbon (and spits out less CO2 and CO).As a frame of reference, the average American uses 16.6 tons of carbon per year. This equates to 7500 air miles, 11,200 miles driven, and 1850 SF of living space.The average CEO is tabbed with 100,000 miles of air travel, 20,000 miles driven, and 3,700 Sf of living space for 85.2 tons of carbon equivalent.A guilty, virtuous person — like Freddie — can purchase a project related offset for between $4-100/ton.An example of a project related offset would be something like the Jacunda Forest Reserve project in Brazil whereat folks are making nice on an old rubber plantation keeping the bad loggers/deforesters from producing timber.What is not clear to me is whether they are just preserving old rubber trees or actually planting more of them, but for $3.30 you can buy a ton of carbon offset and you will feel very good about yourself. Take that certificate to a bar in the Dumbo area and you may get laid. It is very virtuous and you know what an aphrodisiac virtue can be.On the other hand, you could give me a check for $10/ton and I would sell you the fiction between my airplane and my SUV.This is where carbon credits are coming from.Ahhh, but there is something else. People are making money on running the show. The carbon Illuminati call this the trading “schemes.”The total market is supposed to be approximately $144B and the fees — multiple levels of fees like an old fashioned real estate limited partnership in the Craig Hall Era (pro tip: only Craig Hall got rich on those deals) — can be as high as 20%.This is supposed to be a platformed network — carbon credit suppliers on one side with the guilty, evil carbon users on the other side.The money goes from the guilty to the administrators and from the administrators to the carbon royalty.Getting the picture, are you?What Freddie might consider doing is buying an Adirondacks fish camp and planting a million trees and going into the timber business.I know a little about that business, but in the South. Southern Pine is a nice little business that makes a chap 15% ROI annually without fail. You buy 100,000 acres, lumber 5% each year, replant it, and sell your timber. SP grows to full maturity in 20 years, so this roulette wheel keeps turning.You will make money. You will suck the carbon dioxide from the sky. And you will not feel like you got scammed.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  11. Lance Trebesch

    Fred, thanks so much sharing. That was helpful and I now intend on offsetting my travel.I am ceo of an ecommerce company and all of our shipments are carbon neutral through UPS’s Carbon Neutral program. All ecommerce companies should be utilizing services like these.As you may have seen, Stripe is going one step further:… … negative carbon offsets.

  12. zachlandes

    The New York Times travel desk offsets their travel via and that is a good enough recommendation for me. I am not sure where you are getting your numbers. Your 570 tons (517 metric tons) comes out to approx. $4000 to offset at $7.83 per tonne.

    1. JLM

      .Cooleffect has carbon offsets available as low as $4/tonne metric. The infamous rubber plantation at Brazil’s Jacunda Forest Preserve.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  13. Pointsandfigures

    Markets solve a lot of problems when they are transparent, and liquid. Carbon is not transparent, and not liquid.

    1. Chimpwithcans

      Carbon dioxide is pretty transparent no? 😉

    2. Mike

      I don’t think the private markets can establish this type of system on their own. Societies and governments will need to agree to implement some form of pricing mechanism for carbon emissions through taxes or other incentives to influence individual and corporate behavior. It will come down to political will. Enough people will need to agree there is a problem. Enough people will need to be willing to accept near term financial sacrifices for the expectations of a future benefit.

  14. sigmaalgebra

    Yes, we LOVE green trees!!!! Since one goal is “reforestation”, then reducing CO2 in the atmosphere conflicts with the goal, defeats the purpose, of having more trees, right? That is, if want more trees, then should have more CO2 in the atmosphere and not less, right?And we do like coral reefs, right? Well, to make those sea shells, the little bivalves need CO2 in the water to match up with calcium oxide in the water. So, for more sea shells, we want more CO2, right?Since those sea shells mostly just accumulate, e.g., all the way to limestone and even marble, the little bivalves sequester CO2 so that we will have to keep working to add more and more CO2.Also, as we can see in the graph in Al Gore’s movie, when temperatures started rising there were low concentrations of CO2, and when temperatures started falling there were high concentrations of CO2. So, from this data, if we want cooler temperatures, we should have higher concentrations of CO2?Indeed, from about the end of WWII to the 1970s we had some significant cooling when CO2 concentrations were rising from more industrial activity from pulling out of the Great Depression, from WWII, and from the rapid economic growth after WWII. So, for cooling, we should have more CO2?Also, during the Medieval Warm period, we had grapes growing in England and low CO2. So if we want warming we should have low CO2 and, for cooling, more CO2?Also, since the main cause of global temperature change is sun spots, more sun spots lead to higher temperatures, and since now the sun is entering a period of fewer sun spots, we stand to get some cooling. Then cooler oceans can absorb more CO2. So, for more shellfish, want higher concentrations of CO2 in the cooler oceans so should add some CO2 to the atmosphere and, hence, the oceans.So, to keep the planet healthy, “Mo CO2 Ma!!!!!”.

  15. awaldstein

    Fred–While I am more and more involved in the idea and understanding the science behind carbon ‘farming’ in both a number of blockchain projects and natural vineyards, I admit to some ignorance about this offset.Dunno how I think about about it till I know more though in principal I am interested,

  16. Cindy

    “Pay 20 bitcoins for your annual carbon footprint and I’ll plant 100 trees to offset it”. Send me 100 bitcoins and I’ll remove all your un-environment friendly actions since the day you were born and send you a certificate on Amazon rainforest free paper. When you face the green god- you can tell him “I was carbon neutral and here’s a certificate to prove it.Wake up dude! Don’t be a sucker

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  18. Chimpwithcans

    Emissions cap and trade schemes did not materialise out of thin air (pun intended) – they were used very successfully for cleaning up things such as ozone layer pollutants (remember CFC’s?) and acid rain…The idea was that they could do the same for global warming on a global scale. The political nature of the problem – (long term, slow and involving different levels of blame across societies – China vs USA exhibit 1) and the proposed solution – (eg. tricky problem of “additionality” and measurement – see JLM’s car vs plane scenario as an eg) – have held back consistent adoption.Oh – and the lack of consensus on the problem at large – that’s a bummer too.

  19. Michal Haltuf

    Except pure blind trust in the provider, how can one verify, that the carbon offsets have really been provided (ie. when buying 1 ton CO2 offset, that the provider has netted -1 ton emissions, with all his own operational/energy consumed emissions accounted for).I see a huge incentive for the providers to be dishonest if not straightly fraudulent (even if just a little, like selling one netto ton more then 1 times) and I see no forces that would push such providers out of market quickly enough.

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Most effective thing is not to do a harmful activity.To be emotive – to justify taking by giving – doesn’t work unless like Robin Hood you can target from whom you take and to whom you give and why.Carbon use takes from everyone’s remaining Carbon budget.and who audits what you give back – or has someone tokenized trees already – I suppose they are definitely distributed ? 😉 @wmoug:disqus

  20. jason wright

    Is this a guilt trip?Just live in Europe and end all this unnecessary flying. Eurostar, TGV, ICE, they’ll get you where you want to be.

  21. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    @fredwilson:disqusPerhaps an effective way you can signal your intention and reduce your impact (if prepared to make the personal sacrifice) is:#IfyoumustflyFlyCoachThis effectively forces airline prices up due to good old demand and supply and is the best way to motivate people away from unnecessary flights.

  22. DJL

    The amount of CO2 emiited by the US has decreased over the last 20 years without any special economic incentive – besides people don’t like to pollute their local area. The amount of emissions by modern cars is negligible compared with 30 years ago. Planes? Not sure.I’m happy that other people want to buy carbon offsets. I think they are a total fraud. I’m sure there is a thriving market in China and India, where millions of people don’t have basic sanitation and reliable sources of power.

  23. Greg Hills

    In 2100 the climate will be roughly the same as it is today, as will the mean sea level. Greta Thunberg will be 96…unless she has died of natural causes.Any prediction of the future is probably wrong. However let’s agree the climate and MSL are the same as they were 30 yrs ago when the IPCC was formed. I wonder how much backing the IPCC would have received if they had started with an accurate forecast: “In 2019, 30 yrs from now, the climate will be the same as today.” My guess: zero support.Being afraid of anthropogenic climate change makes about as much sense as being afraid of the dark. Or ozone holes, acid rain, peak oil, y2k, killer bees, global cooling, peak oil or the population explosion.Fred, you seem like a smart guy…..Carbon offsets?!….lots of real problems in the world to virtue signal about..

  24. Sophie Starck

    Do you think a small fund whose ‘value prop’ was that they offset the carbon costs a startup they invested in occurs would be appealing to founders? Could they get into competitive rounds as a non-lead investor, and would the offsetting costs be worth the returns from getting into those competitive rounds?

  25. Hugo

    Offseting your CO2 emissions is a good start but:- the CO2 emissions that you emit are going directly in the atmosphere whereas most offseting project involve planting trees. Those trees take decades to be fully grown and absorb all that CO2- how do we make sure that those trees stay planted for the foreseeable future ? what type of trees are we talking about and what impact does it have on biodiversity ?- if all sectors emetting GHG wanted to offset 100% of their emissions, what surface would it be representing ? Those forests would for sure compete with farmlands. Which sectors would have the priority ? Could we continue travelling as much as we want at the expense of food production ?- Shouldn’t we reserve those offsets to the agricultural sector which also needs fossile energy?The only true solution here is to reduce our use of planes and change how we are travelling. The aviation sector already accounts for 2.5% of global CO2 emissions and it is growing fast.

  26. Chris Lu

    Completely agree! I think Project Wren ( does a great job of balancing teaching about carbon offsets and making it easy to subscribe to them as well!

  27. Leonard Cremer

    You can actually reduce the CO2 impact of your meetings and events dramatically by choosing the best meeting location.We work in the corporate meeting and event space and our service help our customers to find the best meeting place for their meeting by looking at the origins of the attendees.This is a CO2 and cost saving case study from one of our customers that saved 187t of CO2 by moving the meeting to a different city. That is equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of up to 46 people.