How Offsetting Works
How carbon offsetting works
Carbon offsetting means an action to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere after you’ve participated in an activity that releases CO2. Think of it as doing a positive act to mitigate a negative one.
For example, if you catch a plane which emits CO2 into the atmosphere and then donate towards a reforestation project which draws CO2 out of the atmosphere, this helps to balance the environmental impact of your travel.
Carbon offsetting projects are set up to sequester (meaning capture and store) as much CO2 as they can, or else to prevent the release of CO2 before it has been released. Offsetting activities include revegetation and planting, controlled cultural burning and fire management, wind and solar farming, cattle management and other methods.
Different types of offsetting have different processes, timeframes and costs, so the amount you donate varies depending on the project you’re supporting. ‘Carbon credits’ refer to activities which remove one tonne of carbon, and can range in cost depending on the method.
The three scopes of carbon emissions
When calculating carbon emissions there are three ‘scopes’ of emissions:
Scope 1: Direct emissions. These come from the resources you own and control, such as powered music gear or your car.
Scope 2: Indirect emissions – owned. These cover energy which you’ve purchased from a provider, such as heating and cooling.
Scope 3: Indirect emissions – not owned. These are other emissions linked to your activities but not controlled directly by you, such as audience transport to a show you put on.
Best practice with carbon offsetting is to attempt to include all three scopes in your calculations, but just including scopes 1 and 2 is also acceptable, as scope 3 is more out of your control.
With the Green Your Noise calculator, estimated audience public transport emissions (scope 3 emissions) add up considerably. If the cost of offsetting these is out of your budget you can exclude these once you get your results.
When to carbon offset
Carbon offsetting can be thought of as one tool in your toolbox of eco-friendly strategies. Offsetting is focused on mitigating negative impacts after the activity has already taken place, whereas there are actions that should be taken beforehand to prevent the release of CO2 in the first place. Carbon offsetting should always be combined with other actions to prevent CO2 from being released, and not solely relied upon as afterthought or secondary consideration.
In terms of live events, think about how you can make yours more sustainable throughout the planning stage too, rather than only offsetting later (see our Gigging Green blogs for tips here). But some aspects of events – like powering live music and travelling to perform – cannot be eliminated entirely, and there are many amazing carbon offset projects happening across this continent which you can support to help negate your impact.
Green Your Noise offsetting
The Green Your Noise calculator helps musicians and creatives work out the CO2 produced through their events (from electricity, travel, waste, and so on) and recommends Australian carbon offset initiatives to donate towards to mitigate this.
We strongly believe that First Nations voices and leadership are crucial in any environmental action, as Indigenous peoples have been successfully caring for the land for tens-of-thousands of years. Our offsetting directory spotlights First Nations-led projects.
Calculating the exact number of CO2 an activity creates is a complex process, especially if event organisers don’t have access to figures for all the contributing factors. The Green Your Noise calculator uses estimates for things like venue size and audience travel methods to determine rough CO2 emissions, keeping the calculator simple and accessible. The Green Your Noise calculator is therefore not carbon neutral certified, but nonetheless provides a guide for finding and offsetting CO2, and for encouraging green practices in events.
Added benefits to offsetting
Beyond directly sequestering or removing CO2, many carbon offset projects have additional benefits.
- Habitat protection and species conservation
- Better air and water quality
- Opportunities for First Nations leadership and greater connection to Country
- Employment opportunities
- Greater access to affordable, clean energy
- Financial input to support communities