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"Carbon Neutrality and the Use of Offsets"
Author: Ney, Richard A.,Purman, Judith R.,
Published In: Facilities Manager
Date: March/April 2009

Many organizations, including colleges and universities, are moving to address the threat of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their operations. For example, the rapid growth of participation in the Presidents Climate Commitment (PCC) now means that more than 600 colleges and universities have pledged to develop plans to become carbon neutral. Carbon neutrality is defined as achieving a state where the operation has zero-net emission of greenhouse gases. It is highly unlikely that an organization will be able to achieve zero absolute emissions of greenhouse gases, since most forms of energy, many materials, and wastes all contribute to GHG emissions. This means that despite aggressive programs to switch to renewable energy, and reduce consumption and waste, credits or offsets must be purchased to counteract those emissions that the institution cannot prevent emitting. The term "carbon offset" refers to a reduction in emissions of any GHG, such as methane, nitrous oxide, or even sulfur hexafluoride. The "offset" is a quantified GHG reduction purchased and used to negate or cancel out an equivalent emission from the operation. Care must be exercised when evaluating different projects for the quality of their claimed carbon offset. There are a series of criteria that a potential offset must meet in order to be deemed adequate for use in the carbon neutrality calculation of the PCC. This article describes a few of the criteria that the offset must meet and offers strategies for managing the carbon footprint and carbon neutrality.

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