September 2020 Update on Carbon Offset Purchase

With the 2020 goals also came a commitment to carbon neutrality.  What is carbon neutrality exactly?  It means that for every ton of carbon emitted here we will pay for one ton to be reduced elsewhere. In practice that means that the college will buy carbon offsets to make up for the greenhouse gas emissions that it has not yet eliminated – most noticeably from burning fossil fuels in the central heating plant and from college-related transportation.  In 2019, the Campus Environmental Advisory Committee’s Offsets Working Group articulated that commitment in more detail and defined principles that are guiding the college’s pursuit of carbon neutrality.   Embedded in that report and the approach to offset purchases is the fact that the college must continue to set goals and work to reduce its own green house gas emissions.  

Last year, a trial purchase of offsets was made so that the offset projects could be researched and so that we, as a whole, could learn more about the offset market.  In the last year plus, offsets have been incorporated into a number of classes including as the focal point of Professor Bradburd’s “The Economics and Ethics of CO2 Offsets.”  This past spring and summer the faculty, students, and staff in the Carbon Offsets Working Group have been examining the monitoring and verification reports for these projects (a clean cookstove project in Honduras, biogas digesters for farmers in Vietnam, and a forest project in central Massachusetts) – as well as a few others – to ensure that we fully understand them and have faith in the methodologies.  In the next few months, this group will share what they have learned and will propose projects to invest in to offset greenhouse emissions generated in FY20 (July 1 2019-June 30, 2020).