Climate Crisis — Renewable Energy Coops and Carbon Offsets

I do not believe that carbon offsets are enough; I want to do everything I can to reduce our carbon footprint “for real.” But that takes planning, time, and effort, and even so, it’s essentially “impossible to reduce our carbon emissions to zero, no matter how hard we try.” [David Suzuki Foundation – DSF] (The links also provide his discussions of carbon offsets and going carbon neutral with them, which is a good starting point for learning about these).

However, we can compensate for our remaining emissions. And here I have a wild-eyed urge to return to the country, and build a net zero home, and have enough solar panels to furnish excess zero emission energy (ZEE) to sell — or donate — enough ZEE to compensate for our remaining emissions from food, travel, consumption… (For that to work, the ZEE would have to replace fossil fuel usage by someone else, and eventually, if everyone is already using ZEE, the only way to compensate would be actual carbon capture. But this is a problem we would be so lucky to have. And if so, there is always tree planting.)

But meanwhile, I see no reason not to go carbon neutral — or carbon negative! (“on paper”…) by more attainable means. Such as renewable energy coops, and offsets. And in this page I would like to share some of the resources I have found.

One of the problems with offsets is that, at least in their early years, many of them turned out to be dubious deals. In order to really count as an offset for you, your money has to go to projects that weren’t going to happen otherwise. To illustrate: let’s say I want to offset my personal GHGE‘s with solar power offsets, or tree planting offsets. If I put up my own panels, or plant my own trees, I know all the details of what happened. But if I buy offsets, I have to trust that the offset seller isn’t selling credits that are associated with a project that was going to be built anyhow, already “counting” as GHG reductions for someone else. In the worst cases, the same credit for a green project might have been sold repeatedly to several people.

Having been around at least a decade, the offset business is supposedly emerging from its “Wild West” phase, and David Suzuki’s carbon offset article, is, again, a good place to start to learn about standards for carbon offsets and how to buy offsets that really mean something. I bought a bunch of offsets this year, but I am hoping that renewable energy coop membership/investment will eventually be the happy medium for us between offset buying and solar farm owning.

I have to say, I find offsets shockingly inexpensive. The GWP (Gross World Product) is US$85 trillion per year (2018); total CO2 emissions in that year were 37.1 gigatonnes CO2 (or 5 tonnes per person). This June, a nice basket of diversified Gold Standard offsets cost US$200 for 15 tonnes. (Less well certified offsets are sometimes as cheap as 5-10$/tonne). Therefore, to offset everyone’s CO2 emissions, it would (in principle) cost US$0.5 trillion per year. Just 0.6% of the GWP. For that matter, just 2% of the GDP of just the United States. If I think about it naively, I find us cheap and shortsighted to be going to hell in a handbasket for such a sum…

Another way of looking at it: typical emissions for us Northern-North-Americans is around 15-20 tonnes per capita per year; offsetting that could cost $100-300/year, depending on which offsets, which dollars, etc. And potentially tax deductible. That is expensive? We can buy cell phones and have children, but not pay a few hundred a year for a future for the children…or everything else? (And it’s so much easier than building our own solar farm…)

Here are some of the renewable energy coop organizations I found: is the one my husband and I have joined, since it is the only one I have found so far that is appropriate for where we live (these coops tend to be very specific to your place of residence, and this one is for Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec). gives a starting-point description of the concept, a list of 5 coops in BC, 6 more in the rest of Canada, as well as a few resources for the US. is for Ontario residents and is currently taking investments. is also for Ontario residents, and is “not currently selling Solar Bonds but expect[s] to soon.”

I wrote to as it was not clear if their coop was restricted to Saskatchewan residents; it is. is for Alberta residents. Alberta and Saskatchewan are great for producing solar power, by the way. is among the several BC coops listed in by above. I will try to add some US resources later.

Here are some of the carbon offset organizations I found: “is leading the fight against climate change, making it easy and affordable for any individual, business or organization to reduce & offset their climate impact and hasten the transition to a clean energy future.” US$10/metric tonne. The donation is tax-deductible (based in NY, so for US income). They work with energy efficiency, forestry, and renewable energy projects; you do not choose which projects, although you can choose to plant trees (but not where). They say they “are committed to supporting and providing the highest quality carbon reduction projects….supports and develops projects from around the world to leading certification standards.” is a yummy smorgasboard of lovely projects all over the world, vetted to be Gold standard. According to the DSF: “The Gold Standard is supported by more than 80 nongovernmental organizations worldwide including WWF International, Greenpeace International, the Pembina Institute, and the David Suzuki Foundation.” You can filter for preferences like Gender Equality, Climate Action, No Poverty, Life Below Water, Life on Land, etc. These are not tax-deductible donations; while Gold Standard is a nonprofit, the projects are not. I was seduced by the menu, and used some of these projects to offset some of our personal GHGE’s. is not a carbon offsetting organization per se. But planting trees is one of the ways of offsetting carbon; and this site is attractive in that you pick where the trees are planted. Since, possibly, only planting trees in the tropics helps, because of questions of albedo*, I chose batches of 100 trees planted in the Amazon Rainforest, Haiti, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Brazil. This one is tax deductible, again only for US taxes.

I did look for Canadian organizations, for Canadian tax deductibility, but those that I found were either more expensive, and/or not tax-deductible at all, and/or not as well certified, and/or trees in colder regions. For example, sells Gold Standard-Certified International Offsets at C$24/tonne (down from C$32 this summer) and CSA Standard-Certified Canadian Offsets at C$20/tonne (down from C$24). They explain in their FAQs that “Although climate change and carbon emissions are a global issue and emissions reduction projects provide benefit on a global basis regardless of where they are located, Less wants to provide customers the option to support local initiatives and purchase offsets from Canadian-based projects. As the Gold Standard-certification is restricted to projects located in developing countries and therefore not applicable to projects located in Canada at the present time.” That FAQs link also explains what the CSA Standard is. No tax-deductions as far as I can tell.

Tree Canada is tax deductible, and has been around for a few decades. But as I mentioned above, it’s not clear that trees in colder regions help much for the climate issue, although undoubtedly a good thing in general.

*I do not necessarily agree with everything that the above tree/albedo reference says, and quote it only as an example of the uncertainties.

© Copyright Abstract Digital Art | Estampe Numérique Abstraite – Paula Franzini