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Making a contribution

If you want to make a personal contribution to the environment, the first thing you should do is reduce your emissions as much as possible: switch to a smaller car to reduce fuel consumption, buy energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, and try to limit airplane trips. Only after that should you consider buying offsets, according to the Tufts University Climate Initiative. If you do buy offsets, avoid tree-planting projects because it can be difficult to measure their carbon absorption, and instead, invest in energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects. Ask the following questions to make sure you get the most value for your money:

1. Does the company adhere to the World Wildlife Fund's Gold Standard, the strictest possible offset criteria?

2. Does the company use an independent auditor to ensure the quality of its carbon offsets?

3. Does the offset truly reduce emissions and at the same time benefit the local population and ecosystems?

4. How much of the offset purchase will go directly to the project and how much will be spent for transaction costs, advertising, and staff salaries?

5. What specific, additional environmental benefit will the company achieve with your money? Make sure the answer makes sense to you.

6. Does the company work transparently? Does it list the projects in detail on its website? Do you understand how it will use your money?

SOURCE: Tufts University Climate Initiative