Note: While the basics of climate change science are rapidly becoming more generally well understood by individual citizens and consumers, the first few following FAQs will first provide a few foundational general concepts and definitions. After this brief primer, subsequent FAQ sections focus on your personal carbon offset purchase.
What are greenhouse gases (GHGs)?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “…greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and certain synthetic chemicals, trap some of the Earth’s outgoing energy, thus retaining heat in the atmosphere. This heat trapping causes changes in the radiative balance of the Earth—the balance between energy received from the sun and emitted from Earth—that alter climate and weather patterns at global and regional scales.”
The U.S EPA goes on to state that, “Some greenhouse gases are emitted exclusively from human activities (e.g., synthetic halocarbons). Others occur naturally but are found at elevated levels due to human inputs (e.g., carbon dioxide). Anthropogenic sources result from energy-related activities (e.g., combustion of fossil fuels in the electric utility and transportation sectors), agriculture, land-use change, waste management and treatment activities, and various industrial processes. Major greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and various synthetic chemicals.
Carbon dioxide is widely reported as the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas because it currently accounts for the greatest portion of the warming associated with human activities. Carbon dioxide occurs naturally as part of the global carbon cycle, but human activities have increased atmospheric loadings through combustion of fossil fuels and other emissions sources. Natural sinks that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (e.g., oceans, plants) help regulate carbon dioxide concentrations, but human activities can disturb these processes (e.g., deforestation) or enhance them.
Methane comes from many sources, including human activities such as coal mining, natural gas production and distribution, waste decomposition in landfills, and digestive processes in livestock and agriculture. Natural sources of methane include wetlands and termite mounds.
Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of solid waste and fossil fuels.
Various synthetic chemicals, such as hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and other synthetic gases, are released as a result of commercial, industrial, or household uses.
Many other gases are known to trap heat in the atmosphere. Examples include water vapor, which occurs naturally as part of the global water cycle, and ozone, which occurs naturally in the stratosphere and is found in the troposphere largely due to human activities.
Each greenhouse gas has a different ability to absorb heat in the atmosphere, due to differences in the amount and type of energy that it absorbs, and a different “lifetime,” or time that it remains in the atmosphere.”
What is a carbon reduction project?
Carbon Reduction Projects (sometimes referred to as “Emissions Reduction Projects” or “Carbon Credit Projects” or “Carbon Action Projects”) are discrete transparent and certified projects, both in the United States and globally, that reduce or remove the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere or avoid GHG emissions. These projects focus on one or more of the following activities: they can sequester greenhouse gases (such as projects that protect and manage forests); they can replace fossil fuel usage with renewable energy (such as clean cook stoves or use of wind or solar power); and/or they can eliminate a greenhouse gas that would have otherwise been emitted into the atmosphere (such as methane gas capture from a landfill).
What is the standard unit of measurement for carbon reduction projects?
Tonne. The tonne is a metric unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms. It is commonly referred to as a metric ton in the United States. It is equivalent to approximately 2,204.6 pounds.
Tonne of CO2e. While CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere, there are others including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. The “e” is a way to equate the effects of these other greenhouse gases in CO2 terms (like an exchange rate for GHG).
What is a carbon credit?
Carbon Reduction Projects officially register their projects that are designed to reduce a measurable amount of tonnes of carbon. Carbon credits are transferable instruments certified by governments or independent certification bodies to represent an emission reduction of one metric ton (or “tonne”) of carbon dioxide (CO2), or an equivalent amount of other greenhouse gases (GHGs). Carbon Reduction Projects sell their carbon credits to companies or organizations or individuals. Each carbon credit purchased is formally retired (i.e., it can only be sold once).
What are quality standards in relation to carbon credits?
Rare presents carbon reduction projects that adhere to the most rigorous quality standards in the global marketplace and have the following specific characteristics: they must be:
Additional: The projects and their GHG reduction would not have been achieved without offset funding.
Measurable: The projects have a reliable protocol for measuring how much greenhouse gas they prevent or sequester.
Transparent: The projects share as much information as possible.
Third-Party Verified: The projects are verified by a trustworthy, independent third party. (World’s major carbon standards: the Gold Standard, the Verified Carbon Standard, the Climate Action Reserve, the American Carbon Registry, or the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism)
Permanent: The projects must demonstrate that the emissions reductions or removals represented by a carbon credit endure for the long term.
Airtight: The projects must demonstrate that they are not resulting in an increase in emissions outside of the project.
Enforceable: The carbon credits issued from a project are sold once and retired.
Making It Personal: Your Donation for a Carbon Offset
What is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint calculates the greenhouse gases released by a given company, organization, city, or individual. In Rare’s Climate Culture program, we are primarily focused on individual citizens and consumers. Understanding your own personal carbon footprint, in broad terms, allows you to contextualize how your actions contribute to greenhouse gas emissions overall, and gives you a framework to act towards mitigating that carbon footprint and becoming carbon neutral.
What does it mean to be carbon neutral?
Carbon neutrality is achieved when one reduces their carbon emissions through specific behaviors or actions, and also purchases carbon credits to effectively have a net zero carbon emissions profile.
What is an average American’s annual carbon footprint?
While there is variability in the carbon footprint for each consumer in the U.S. economy, the average American produces the equivalent of 16.6 tonnes of carbon emissions each year (according to CoolEffect.org).
Why doesn’t Rare.org and the Climate Culture program calculate my specific footprint?
Calculating a specific customized carbon footprint turns out to be challenging. Depending on air travel, automobile usage, household energy expenditure, volume of purchases, and other factors, an individual’s carbon footprint can vary. To be more precise requires an investment of time to enter personal consumer granular data. We are also conscious of privacy concerns with personal data. While MIP is investing in evaluating the best carbon footprint calculator science and methodologies, our organizational position is that we can start by keeping it simple and using a proxy measurement of an average American’s carbon footprint. Our main driving goal is not an exact footprint, but instead prioritizing getting concerned individuals engaged in a broader set of seven behavior changes that will have the most impact.
What is a carbon offset?
A carbon offset is a decrease of greenhouse gas emissions, typically measured in metrics tons (or “tonnes”), to counteract for an equal number of emissions that occur elsewhere. For example, planting trees has proven to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality as trees absorb carbon dioxide. “Offsetting” occurs through taking action to measurably reduce carbon emissions that can compensate for the carbon emissions individuals and/or companies produce. In the case of an individual, once an individual has a broad sense of one’s carbon footprint or use the proxy of an average American’s carbon footprint (of 16.6 tonnes), one can take steps to reduce one’s footprint including taking immediate action to purchase carbon offsets.
How does a person retire carbon?
Your donation to Rare is used to purchase carbon offsets from one or more specified carbon reduction projects. Rare purchases large blocks of carbon offsets and then assigns individual recognition as individual donations are made. Carbon Offsets are one important action that individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprints. Rare’s Climate Culture program is focused on catalyzing concerned citizens to adopt one or more of seven important behaviors to reduce carbon emissions.
How does Rare select carbon reduction projects?
Rare has partnered with CoolEffect.org to curate and provide a select set of carbon reduction projects. Rare’s technical team evaluates the full inventory of Cool Effect carbon credit projects and selects a representative set of three projects to feature in our offerings to consumers who are engaged in the Climate Culture program.
Where are projects located?
Carbon Reduction Projects are being certified both within the United States and around the world.
Why do projects charge different amounts?
Carbon Reduction Projects charge different amounts because of a variety of factors including project type, location, supply and demand and age of credit. The typical range of a carbon credit is $5 to $25 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Which carbon reduction projects are featured by Rare and the Climate Culture program?
Rare has currently curated a set of three carbon reduction projects from Cool Effect’s inventory, including:
Yes! By purchasing a carbon offset through Rare, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, your purchase is 100% tax deductible.
Does Rare charge any administrative fees?
If your donation was charged using a credit card, the credit card processor charges fees to Rare that are deducted from the total donation amount. In addition, Rare charges a flat 5% administrative fee that is used to support the Rare Climate Culture program. All of the remaining donation is used by Rare to purchase carbon offsets from its non-profit partner, Cool Effect (see https://www.cooleffect.org).
Do you offer refunds?
Yes! Rare stands behind its carbon offsetting projects and will honor refund requests for 30 days after the donation is made. No questions asked.
What else can I do to reduce my footprint and help end the climate crisis?
There are so many ways to reduce your footprint and help end the climate crisis! Head over to Climate Culture for much more!