How carbon offsets can help reduce our carbon footprints

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(CBS NEWS) – When Prince Harry was called out for taking private jets to climate events, he assured critics he was buying “carbon offsets” to balance out his carbon footprint.

Everyone has a carbon footprint. From driving, to flying, to eat meat – scientists say each of us is generating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Peggy Kellen with the Center for Resource Solutions says you can reduce your carbon footprint with carbon offsets.

With carbon offsets, you can pay to invest in environmental projects to “counteract” your personal carbon emissions.

“They’ll be ones for forestry in certain locations,” Kellen said. “They’ll be ones for methane capture from dairies, or rice cultivation, or landfills.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle use carbon offsets to compensate for emissions their private flights produce.

It’s not just royals. Online shopping site Etsy has committed to offset 100% of carbon emissions from shipping.

But do carbon offsets make an impactful difference on the environment?

Some experts say they do.

According to Forest Trends — an organization that works to conserve forests and other ecosystems — last year alone, voluntary carbon offset projects issued 62.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. That number is equal to not consuming almost 150 million barrels of oil.

Some people, like Niklas Hagelberg, the United Nations Climate Change coordinator, said offsets shouldn’t be the main choice.

“If we’re serious about kind of addressing climate change, we have to reduce emissions,” Hagelberg said. “And it’s only after we can address that question that we can get into the offset.”

Calculators online can help you reduce your emissions. The calculators allow you to track your own carbon footprint and see where you can make changes.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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