Should You Buy Carbon Offsets From Terrapass (2021 Review)?

Americans have the largest individual carbon footprint in the world. Even if you try to reduce the emissions you produce, for example, by switching to an electric car, you still won’t cut emissions from many activities, like flying. So to reduce your carbon footprint, you can buy offsets from Terrapass and its competitors. But are carbon offsets effective? Read more to find out.

SustainFi June 17, 2021

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Summary

  • Terrapass sells carbon offsets to help reduce your carbon footprint, with one-time and recurring payments starting at $4.99
  • A carbon offset is a certificate representing a reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions, the principal cause of climate change
  • Terrapass uses the money on carbon-reducing projects like planting forests and capturing methane from cows

Pros

  • Offset your carbon footprint from activities you can’t avoid
  • Provide funding for environmental projects that may not otherwise get the capital they need
  • Both one-time purchases and subscription plans are available
  • Use the carbon calculator to determine your carbon footprint
  • The project portfolio is reviewed by independent third parties

Cons

  • Offsets, but doesn’t eliminate, your carbon footprint
  • May encourage some people not to reduce their carbon footprint

Should you buy carbon offsets? 

Carbon offsets let you cancel unavoidable carbon emissions from activities like flying or cooling your home. If you’ve done all you can to pollute less, you’ve run out of options apart from offsets. For example, the airline industry has still not found a way to switch to clean fuels or electric planes, so if you fly, you have no other options.

However, the offset programs have critics who have likened them to buying Papal indulgences. Critics say that by reducing guilt from producing emissions, offsets may discourage people from reducing carbon-emitting activities.

Further, some of the offset projects, even the ones from reputable organizations like the Nature Conservancy, are being investigated for producing fewer offsets than they claimed. In Brazil, trees were found to be cut by loggers after the offsets were sold. Other projects were criticized for making money from offsets while they were cost-effective without offsets.

We think that, all in, carbon offsets have a place. But to make the greatest impact, buy offsets while continuing to reduce the amount of carbon you produce, for example, by switching to an electric vehicle, driving less, or making your home more energy-efficient.

You should also make sure to buy your offsets from a reputable organization.

🔔 Looking to compare offset prices? See how the top ten carbon offset providers compare.

What is Terrapass?

Terrapass was founded in 2004 with the goal of fighting climate change. The company was launched by a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, along with 41 of his students. Since then, Terrapass has served thousands of individuals, businesses, and institutions and helped offset millions of pounds of CO2. In 2014, Terrapass was sold to JustGreen, a subsidiary of the Canadian Just Energy Group.

How does Terrapass work?

Terrapass helps you neutralize your environmental impact through carbon offsets. When you buy a carbon offset, the money supports projects that reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.

Based on the number of miles you drive or fly and the amount of electricity you use each year, you can estimate your carbon footprint and determine just how much it would take to offset those activities.

Examples of projects that benefit from carbon offsets are reforestation, solar and wind farms, methane capture at dairy farms, and more. Terrapass uses the Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, American Carbon Registry, and Climate Action Reserve as their standards when choosing projects to support.

Examples of Terrapass’ projects

Terrapass performs due diligence on each project before they add it to the portfolio. They want to make sure each project meets the “additionality” test. To meet this test, each project must bring about carbon reductions, so that it would not have been funded without the sale of offsets.

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What does Terrapass offer?

Terrapass offers a variety of packages to help customize your carbon offsets to your lifestyle. Here are the carbon offset options that Terrapass currently offers:

Carbon Balanced Living Plan

  • Cost: Starting at $4.86 (monthly)

The Carbon Balanced Living Plan is a monthly subscription that lets you offset monthly carbon emissions from home energy use, driving, and flying. The monthly cost is calculated using your household size, the number of cars you own, and the number of flights you take. As an example, offsetting the carbon footprint of a two-person household with two cars who take one international flight a year costs $19.46 a month.

Personal Carbon Offsets

  • Cost: Starting at $4.99 (one-time or monthly)

Personal Carbon Offsets is another way of offsetting the carbon emissions from your household. This package allows you to choose either a one-time or recurring monthly purchase. You can choose how much to pay by calculating how many pounds of carbon you produce.

Flight Carbon Offset

  • Cost: $4.99 – $49.90

The Flight Carbon Offset is a way of reducing the carbon footprint that comes with air travel. Based on the number of miles you fly, Terrapass will calculate the estimated carbon emission of one passenger to neutralize the environmental impact of your trip. For example, offsetting a flight from New York to London (around 3,500 miles) will cost you $9.98. Airlines also increasingly let you buy offsets when you check out.

EcoTourist Bundle

  • Cost: $49.89

The Eco-Tourist Bundle is a way of offsetting the carbon footprint of your travel for more than just a flight. The standard rate covers five average four-hour flights or 10,800 miles of car travel. You can customize yours to match your actual carbon emissions.

Renewable Energy Certificates

  • Cost: Starting at $8.00 (one-time or monthly)

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) support clean energy projects like wind and solar farms. You can choose to buy one certificate or set up a subscription to buy one each month.

Festive Bundle

  • Cost: $49.89

The Festive Bundle is a way of giving back to friends and family by offsetting 10,000 pounds of carbon emissions. Buying this package is the equivalent of taking an entire passenger car off the road for one year or offsetting half of an entire household’s electricity use for a year.

The Gift of Terrapass

  • Cost: Starting at $4.99

Terrapass makes it easy to give carbon offsets to friends and family. You can buy in quantities of 1,000 pounds of carbon emissions. You’ll receive a certificate with your gift recipient’s name and a space for a short message. Not only is this a great way to neutralize carbon emissions, but it also helps to spread the word about carbon offsets.

Green Wedding Carbon Offsets

Cost: $4.99 – $9.99 per guest

Couples can purchase carbon offsets to offset the carbon footprint of their entire wedding day. The different packages are customized by the number of guests, as well as how many pounds of carbon you expect your wedding to produce, choosing from three different options. Terrapass also has an events calculator to help you estimate the carbon footprint of your big day.

Personal BEF Water Restoration Certificates (WRCs)

  • Cost: Starting at $2.00

Personal BEF WRCs represent 1,000 gallons of water used. You can buy these to help offset your water use.

Carbon offsets for businesses

In addition to the carbon offset packages for individuals and families, Terrapass also offers carbon offsets for businesses. These packages are similar, letting companies buy carbon offsets via a monthly subscription or on a one-off basis.

Business carbon offsets start at $11 for either a one-time or recurring purchase.

Terrapass carbon footprint calculator

Most people don’t have an accurate idea of how much carbon they actually produce throughout the year. Luckily, Terrapass has a carbon calculator to help you determine your carbon footprint. 

The calculator asks you questions about your family’s vehicles, public transportation use, air travel, and home energy to estimate how many pounds of carbon your household creates. Then, right from the calculator, you’ll have the option to offset those emissions by purchasing carbon offsets.

Here is what the Dashboard looks like:

You might be surprised just how much carbon your household creates each year, but also how affordable it would be to completely neutralize it with carbon offsets.

💰 Takeaway

If you’re concerned with your carbon footprint, buying carbon offsets is a way to neutralize your environmental impact. Terrapass has been helping people to offset their carbon emissions for more than 15 years. The company’s variety of packages makes it easy to find one that suits you, and the carbon calculator helps you get the most accurate picture of your real carbon footprint.

Just remember that while carbon offset can be effective, they are most powerful when you pair them with an effort to reduce carbon-emitting activities.

🔔 Looking for a Terrapass alternative? You can also buy offsets from Cool Effect or even fund direct air capture from Climeworks.