General FAQ

What does Carbonzero do?

Carbonzero provides greenhouse gas measurement, management and offsetting services to help individuals and organizations reduce their contribution to climate change. Click here for more detail about our Projects, Products and Services.

Why should I measure my emissions?

Measuring your emissions gives a more comprehensive snapshot of your carbon footprint than an energy audit would. The calculation process will enable you to discover inefficiencies and opportunities to save money relating to the emissions that you create, and take responsibility for emissions that can’t be reduced.

Why should companies manage emissions?

Carbonzero’s expert staff works with organizations to measure, manage and mitigate your effects on climate change. There are many advantages for companies who seek to quantify their corporate emissions. These benefits include:

  • Discovery of inefficient processes
  • Identify opportunities to save money by reducing overall GHG emissions
  • Allow you to take responsibility for emissions that cannot be reduced.
  • Build leadership in the marketplace
  • Increased corporate social responsibility
  • Attraction and retention of employees

What are greenhouse gas emissions?

Greenhouse gases (GHG’s) were so named because they
have the same effect on the earth that glass on the outside of a greenhouse has
on its interior. GHGs allow the sun’s rays to pass through but trap in heat
that sustains life on our planet. This process is known as the “greenhouse effect”. Without these gases – primarily water vapour, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide -- the earth would be too cold for most creatures to survive. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) exist within the atmosphere both naturally and as a result of anthropogenic (human) processes. The primary, man-made GHGs include:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Sulphur hexafluoride
  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • Perfluorocarbons

Why should I manage my emissions?

As the saying goes; “You can’t monitor what you don’t measure.” The first step in managing GHG emissions is to conduct a GHG emissions assessment on the activities that produce emissions. Each of the GHGs listed above are converted into carbon dioxide equivalents, or CO2e for measurement purposes. Each of the 6 gases have a different GHG intensity, i.e. its ability to impact global warming. Reducing your overall climate impact not only benefits air quality, but managing your emissions can also help you find more efficient ways to use natural resources and lower your overall costs.

Why should I offset my emissions?

Offsets give you the opportunity to negate the emissions that cannot be otherwise reduced. In addition, offsetting can help companies improve their corporate stewardship which, in turn, can improve overall image.

For further information on the benefits associated with purchasing offsets, see questions in the Carbon Offset section (question 30).

Why should I buy carbon offsets with Carbonzero?

The fight against climate change requires a commitment on behalf of all of everyone who contributes to the production of GHG emissions. By purchasing a carbon offset with Carbonzero, you can:

  • Have a positive influence on the environment by neutralizing the emissions that you produce
  • Save money by minimizing emission-intensive activities like reducing the amount of energy you consume or the fuel you burn
  • Uphold your public image providing marketing potential
  • Be sure that your investment is in the hands of capable assessors, funding ethical projects

What standards does Carbonzero use?

Carbonzero takes pride in showcasing our credibility. We provide customers with a high
degree of transparency throughout the course of our business practices. At a
minimum, Carbonzero provides ISO-based offsets which meet the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol
for Project Accounting. In addition, many of our projects meet additional
offset standards which as CCBA and VER+. We prepare emissions reports
in accordance with WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting
standards. The Carbonzero Carbon Emissions Calculator discloses its methodology during the
calculation process in a manner that showcases our accurate and up-to-date
sources. For more information please visit our Standards section.

Is Carbonzero subject to independent auditing / verification?

Yes. The process of quantifying greenhouse gas emissions could not occur without a third-party to verify or validate the quantification methods. All of our offset projects are subject to third-party auditing and verification.

Additionally, Carbonzero’s internal record-keeping are up to date with industry best standards that are available to auditors upon request. Each tonne of carbon that is purchased through by consumers or organizations are serialized and registered both internally and on reputable offset registries.

How do I know that the calculations from Carbonzero are accurate and up-to-date?

Carbonzero takes pride in sourcing information provided by credible organizations such as the UNFCC, IPCC and the Government of Canada. Transparency is paramount to our company and we ensure our clients that we are using the most up-to-date data available. Visit our Carbon Emissions Calculator Methodology page for more details on the specifics of our methodology, or simply contact us.

What types of projects do Carbonzero support, and what criteria do you follow in your project selection process?

Carbonzero provides clients with a variety of projects which are governed by various standards. Carbonzero’s Signature Portfolio which includes high-quality, ISO-based offsets in addition to CCBA, and VER+ and can build a customized carbon offset portfolio to meet your needs.

Carbonzero’s projects are:

  • REAL — Emissions reduction or removal must be created by a specific project. The benefit must be real and reliably ascribed to a project activity — not theoretical
  • QUANTIFIABLE — Must be able to precisely account for the tonnes of CO2 equivalent reduced or removed by the project.
  • VERIFIABLE — Because of the value being placed on an intangible asset (one tonne of CO2 equivalent that is NOT in the atmosphere), one must be able to prove the reduction has occurred, and that it was the result of the project activity. All tenets of an offset must be audited before that offset is ready for use. Depending on the nature of the project, we select offsets verified to different standards, with priority currently given to ISO-14064-2 project origination standards, ISO-14064-3 project verification standards, VER+, and CCBA.
  • AUDITABLE — Verification/Validation reports delivered by accredited 3rd party verifiers.
  • REGISTERED — When possible, all projects are registered, serialized and retired publicly with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) CleanProjects, Markit, BlueRegistry or similar reputable project registries in order to avoid double-counting or the sale of offsets to more than one entity.
  • CONSERVATIVE — In a similar vein to the requirement for verifiability, using conservative approaches to estimation, measurement and monitoring ensures that an offset is sound. One must always choose the path that does not lead to overestimation.
  • PERMANENT — The beneficial action of an offset to the atmosphere must be durable and lasting. Offsets that result from reduced use of fossil fuels are often considered permanent by default. Because protection and restoration of forests and natural systems are also critical to stopping climate change, a variety of methods have been established to show permanence. Along with smart project design, the creation of a buffer pool of unsold offsets and/or the purchase of re-emission insurance can be utilized for this purpose.
  • ADDITIONAL — The reduction or removal of greenhouse gasses by a project must be shown to be dependent on the expectation of revenues or removal of barriers caused by the fact that the project is being undertaken for offsets. This is to ensure that the offset really equals a true “-1” counterbalance to the pollution it is offsetting, rather than an emissions reduction that would have happened anyway. Projects must go beyond “business as usual” to generate offsets. The Additionality of all of Carbonzero’s projects is assessed using the CDM Additionality Tool.
  • LOCAL — Climate change is a global problem but many wish to make their solutions local. Carbonzero has built capacity to source projects in the sectors and regions that suit our clients best. We supply ‘made-in-Canada’ offsets to our home-country clients, and are processing country-specific offsets for clients worldwide.
  • FORWARD LOOKING — In addition to adherence to carbon market best practices, Carbonzero is committed to sourcing and developing projects that move climate change endeavours forward.
  • PROVIDES CO-BENEFITS — Wherever possible, Carbonzero looks to maximize the value associated with socially responsible projects by selecting ones that have a direct and positive impact on their local communities to provide the highest value to our clients.
  • ACCESSIBLE — Proponents must allow for annual visits to project sites, and spot check audits on available and sold offset volumes.

Isn't supporting offset projects just a 'permit to pollute'?

Offset projects produce carbon credits, whereas the word ‘permit’ is more appropriate relating to a Cap and Trade system. Carbonzero takes pride in working with clients who identify the importance of measuring their emissions and explore reduction solutions. However, it is unlikely that any amount of emissions reductions will eliminate the production of CO2e, thus these emissions can be neutralized through the purchase of accredited carbon offsets.

The main goal of an offset project is to reduce or sequester the amount of carbon that is generated on a daily basis. This is done through providing funding to offset project proponents that meet internationally recognized offset standards. Through purchasing offsets with Carbonzero, you are assured that your money is funding some of the highest quality offset projects on the market.

What assurance do I have that my investment with Carbonzero is really making a difference in the reduction of GHGs?

Each of the projects that Carbonzero supports has a real and verified emissions reduction or removal. Wherever possible, Carbonzero looks to maximize the value associated with socially responsible projects, by selecting ones that have a direct and positive impact on their local communities. For more information, see our standards page.

Do I have a choice to select which projects I want to support?

Carbonzero is pleased to provide options from the offset projects that Carbonzero supports. Once you calculate the emissions you generate from our carbon calculator, you have an option to offset the emissions from our Canadian Offset Portfolio.

Additionally, we help organizations to quantify their carbon footprint with Carbonzero and identify projects that meet their specific needs (volume restrictions apply). For more details on how Carbonzero can help your organization, please contact us.

How much of my money actually goes to the offset project?

The proportion and distribution of your investment varies according to the project type and standard associated with each offset project. Additional costs to consider when purchasing carbon offsets are advertising, broker fees, outreach, staff salaries and operating costs, among others. Please see the chart below for our average offset cost distribution:

Do you sell your address list or give it to other companies?

Carbonzero values our client’s private information. We operate on a secure server and any
information that you provide to us is kept only for internal processing. At Carbonzero, we have our own internal carbon registry to document your offset purchases, and provide offsets on your behalf.

Can I claim my offsets as a tax expense?

It depends. If you are an individual, then the emissions that you offset cannot be claimed as a tax expense. However, if you are offsetting any component of your business, then you can claim the carbon offsets as a business expense. Please feel free to contact us for more details.

Where does my money go when I purchase an offset?

When you purchase an offset with Carbonzero, we ensure that your money will be allocated appropriately to the project that you have chosen to support. In order for your offset order to be processed, a number of administrative duties are required to process the order. In addition, the specific offset project that you are supporting requires verification / validation reports to be prepared to ensure that the CO2e that is being sold as an offset is subject to accurate quantification.

How do I know that the offsets I purchase are legitimately being retired?

Carbonzero utilizes international standards when we undertake a complete, consistent, accurate and transparent account of an organization’s carbon footprint. These standards are widely used by greenhouse gas emissions experts across the world. These accounting protocols are known as ISO-14064-1 and the WRI/WBCSD GHG Accounting Protocol. Both standards are complimentary to one another.

Each specific project is retired on a different registry, depending on the Offset Project. The following are examples of the registries that are utilized by Carbonzero:

  • CSA CleanProjects Registry
  • VCS Registry
  • Blue Registry
  • Tuv Sud Registry
  • Markit Registry

Carbon IQ

What is Climate Change?

What is Climate Change?

Climate change refers to a change in the “average weather” of an area caused by the unnatural warming of the globe. Average weather changes include all of the features that we typically associate with weather; temperature, wind patterns and precipitation. Climate change is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases as a result of anthropogenic (human) activities and can affect land, sea or air.

The natural warming and cooling cycles on planet earth have been occurring for millennia. However, anthropogenic (human) sources of greenhouse gases contribute to the instability of the atmosphere causing weather patterns to be disrupted. This trend enhances the atmospheres ability to trap heat. In fact, the atmosphere contains 32% more carbon dioxide than it did in the mid 1800’s.

For a further explanation of the affect that GHG have on our environment, please see FAQ, Question 4.

How does Climate Change differ from Global Warming?

Global warming refers to the rise in the average surface temperature of the earth. The effects of this include the melting of glaciers and mountain show caps that are a large source of fresh water used for drinking and irrigation. Consequently, the rising of sea levels caused by melting ice sheets may cause coastal areas and islands become exposed to storm damage or potentially underwater.

Climate change takes into account the alteration of regional climate characteristics and is more complex than global warming. Factors that contribute to climate change include humidity, precipitation, air pressure, and temperature. More specifically, changes in our climate may affect severe weather events, agricultural productivity, risk of vector-borne infectious diseases, and extinctions of higher level species due to loss of habitat.

The global temperature has risen 0.6 degrees Celsius since the end of the 1800’s. There is concern in the scientific community that the temperature change from now to the end of the century will be roughly the same as the difference between now and the last Ice Age, which occurred 10,000 years ago, resulting in dramatic changes in temperature, weather patterns, water tables, land and biodiversity.

What are the main contributors to climate change?

This question is up for debate among both politicians and scientists. There is strong evidence that supports the idea that human industry and fossil fuel use has contributed significantly to the creation of emissions.

There are 6 Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) that have been identified by the Kyoto Protocol, each of which have a carbon equivalent, or CO2e. These GHG’s are internationally recognized as the primary contributors of human induced climate change.

What are Greenhouse Gases and where do they come from?

Please refer to FAQ, question #4.

Can the behavior humans influence climate change?

There are many different ways that humans influence our climate. As the human population continues to grow, the consumption of our natural resources and the pollution in the form of used materials, chemicals and emissions increase. This includes the combustion of fossil fuels, clearing of forests to make way for agriculture, and pollution of our water and air that effect biological activity.

What is the Carbon Cycle?

There are four main reservoirs of carbon that are all interconnected by pathways of change:

  • Air - Carbon exists within the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide.
  • Water - Carbon dioxide dissolves in water. It returns to the atmosphere through the hydrologic cycle.
  • Plants - Through photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon and convert it to organic compounds (their food).
  • Animals - Animals, including humans release carbon dioxide into the air after breathing in oxygen.
  • Plant and Animal Decay - Decomposition of plants and animals releases carbon dioxide back into the air
  • Fossil Fuels - Carbon is also stored in fossil fuels (ex: coal, petroleum, natural gas). When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is released into the air.

The largest pool of carbon that is close to the earth surface is trapped in the ocean, but is not involved with rapid exchange with the atmosphere. Carbon movement or cycling in the atmosphere occurs as a result of various chemical, physical, geological and biological processes.

Are emissions from the upper atmosphere worse than emissions from the ground level?

Many scientists believe for a variety of reasons, that the GHG emissions created in the upper atmosphere, such as from aircraft, are worse than GHG’s emitted on the ground level. This phenomenon is referred to as Radioactive Forcing and Carbonzero currently uses a RF multiplier of around 2.1, being the same for emissions created from flights at the ground and upper atmosphere level. Once there is an consensus on RF in the scientific community, Carbonzero will update our calculator accordingly.

Carbon Footprint and Carbon Calculator

What is a Carbon Footprint?

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact that an individual, business or event has on the environment, mainly climate change. Ones carbon footprint is measured in a unit call a carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e. The greenhouse gases identified in the Kyoto Protocol (see above, Greenhouse Gases) dictate the intensity that each gas contributes to the carbon footprint of each person / business. A carbon footprint sums up the total of all the GHG’s generated from an event or product.

What is a Carbon Calculator?

A carbon calculator is a tool that is used to quantify a carbon footprint. Each carbon calculator is unique, utilizing varying standards and methodology for quantification. Carbonzero uses the most up-to-date and relevant information to create an accurate representation of the emissions each person / business generates.

Individuals and Families

Many activities cause the generation of GHG’s which contribute one’s carbon footprint. For individuals, Carbonzero focuses primarily on the sources of emissions that are adequately documented from Canadian government resources; that of vehicle emissions, energy, various fuels and natural gas consumption. See our calculator methodology for more details .

Business and Industry

Carbonzero’s business clients are able to broaden the scope of their emissions. Working with our expert staff and certified GHG accountants, organizations can identify specific activities that create carbon emissions. Contact us if you have additional questions.

If I reduce my carbon footprint, does that count as an offset?

Not necessarily. If you reduce your carbon footprint, you reduce your contribution to climate change (which is a great thing!). To create a carbon offset, certain criteria and standards must be adopted in a manner that takes into account such things as leakage, permanence, additionality and unique ownership among others (see our definitions section for more details on these terms).

Carbon Offset

What is a Carbon Offset?

Carbon offsets are real and verified reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Their purpose is to assist in the mitigation of global warming by compensating or "offsetting" an emissions-producing activity by investing into offsets that improve efficiency, conserve energy and biodiversity, and change in behaviour. Offset purchasers are taking immediate action on climate change by being responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions they are unable to reduce.

Offsets can be created when projects are undertaken to permanently reduce GHG emissions such as building retrofits, reduced consumption of fossil fuels, or the displacement of non-renewables into energy sources such as wind and solar. Offsets can also be created through the sequestration of carbon into forests, however these offsets should be adequately verified to take into account Permanence, Additionality, Accurate Quantification, and Verified.

Projects that are mandated by law, have a strong return on investment or would have proceeded in the normal course of business, do not qualify as offsets. Offsets must be "additional", which ensures the project that created them would not have occurred without the funding provided by the sale of the GHG reductions.

How does Carbon Offsetting work?

In order to offset the emissions that you create, it’s necessary to quantify or measure your carbon footprint. Once you know the amount of CO2e you produce, you can purchase a carbon offset.

Carbonzero’s Signature Portfolio of carbon offsets are sourced from projects that support entities in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. All credits from Carbonzero’s Signature Portfolio are additional, quantified, verified by independent third parties and registered on the Canadian Standards Association CleanProjects registry or similar. This ensures that the carbon offset that you purchase is retired on your behalf, not being double counted by other offsetters.

What does 'Carbon Neutral' mean?

Carbon neutral means contributing net zero addition of carbon dioxide (or CO2e) into the atmosphere. To claim carbon neutrality, it doesn’t mean producing no emissions, but the net addition of emissions into the atmosphere is zero. This is primarily achieved through the purchase of carbon offsets.

Can I become Carbon Neutral without offsetting?

It is possible to become carbon neutral without offsetting, but to do so will most likely be very difficult and/or prohibitively costly. The reality of today’s world is that any energy use, including heating, cooling, electricity and transportation, emits carbon at some point. Though it is possible to provide transportation and energy completely carbon free, to do so would require technologies that are unaffordable or do not yet exist.

Is offsetting a substitution for conservation?

No. Through the calculation of your carbon footprint, it is evident that the activities that create the greatest amount of emissions can be reduced through conservation. Conservation is encouraged to decrease our planets reliance on fossil fuels and wasting of our natural resources.

However, no matter how much you conserve, it is necessary to keep your home warm in the winter, to cook your food, and travel to work to provide for your family. Carbon offsetting provides a way for you to neutralize the emissions you create, even after you have conserved as much as possible.

Conservation and offsetting go hand-and-hand in a lot of cases, for a lot of people. Many people want to take responsibility for their actions that affect the stability of our planet. Offsetting provides a solution to individuals and organizations who produce emissions that cannot be reduced through conservation.

If I offset my vehicle usage, do I still need to do emissions testing on my car?

Carbon offsetting neutralizes that greenhouse gases produced from your engine. However, other emissions such as SO2, NOx and some particulate are not. If you live in a jurisdiction that mandates automotive emissions testing, purchasing carbon offsets will not eliminate the need to get your car tested.

When I offset, what do I get out of it?

When you offset with Carbonzero, you get a certificate from our organization with the amount of tonnage that you purchased, your name, and your certification number that is perminantly retired

Projects / Standards

What projects qualify as an offset project? Does location matter?

There are many different types of projects that qualify as an offset project. Potential Canadian offset projects include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Acid gas injection
  • Energy efficiency
  • Recycling
  • Aerobic composting
  • Fuel switching
  • Reduced deforestation
  • Anaerobic wastewater treatment
  • Hydro energy
  • Reduced till agriculture
  • Biomass production and usage
  • Industrial recycling project
  • Reforestation
  • Biomass energy
  • Intermodal transportation
  • Sequestration
  • CO2 injection
  • Landfill gas capture and flare
  • Waste diversion
  • Cogeneration
  • Methane venting reduction
  • Wind energy
  • Electricity generation
  • Nitrous oxide abatement from nitric acid production
  • Zero till cropping
  • Energy conservation
  • No till agriculture

The location of an offset project does matter, whether it is in a developing or developed nation. The project specific offset standards dictate the methodology involved in each type of project.

I heard that forestry projects are poor quality offsets? Is this true?

Forestry is a controversial topic when it comes to carbon offset projects, since this is a type of carbon sequestration and does not permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere. Carbonzero ensures that each of the projects only sources projects that have been accredited under certain certifications such as the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance standards. Standards like this one ensure adequate quantification and proper ownership rights, particularly in relation to aboriginal land claims.

What is a Renewable Energy Credit (REC)?

A REC is essentially like a carbon offset, only it specifically represents the environmental benefits from renewable electricity such as wind or solar. These types of projects are permanent reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, but are typically measured in kilowatt-hours or megawatt hours. Any money generated by the sale of RECs provide a financial incentive for developers to construct more renewable-energy projects

What if I use another utility that funds renewable energy projects, do I still need to offset my emissions?

In the same way that purchasing green energy supports renewable energy, purchasing carbon offsets supports low carbon technologies. But there are a few key differences between purchasing green energy and buying carbon offsets:

Buying green energy only compensates for electricity use. Carbon offsets can be applied not only to neutralize emissions from electricity, but emissions from natural gas, oil and vehicle fuels as well.

Green energy addresses electricity supply, not emissions. When you purchase a tonne of offsets, you are neutralizing one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. But when purchasing a kilowatt-hour of green energy you are supporting green energy. Buying green energy is more environmentally effective if you live in a place like Alberta, where the electricity is fossil-intensive, and less effective in British Columbia, where each kilowatt-hour produces more than 100 times fewer emissions than a kilowatt hour in Alberta. One carbon offset, however, has the exact same environmental effect in every jurisdiction.

Offsets ensure additionality. Every carbon offset project goes through a test to ensure that the type of project would not have otherwise occurred. These tests include making sure that the project is not legally required to be done by law – for example, if a city has said that all new power plants had to come from wind turbines, carbon offset financing would not be allowed to be applied for such a project. This is frequently not the case with green electricity credits.