What is a Carbon Offset? 

An offset is an optional added fee to the cost of traveling (air or ground transportation) to fund a separate project that reduces carbon emissions elsewhere, such as a wind farm or forestry project.  Offsets in some cases can make the net carbon footprint of travel effectively zero. Learn more here.

Why Offset?

Sometimes, travel is unavoidable. Air travel emissions in particular can be difficult to reduce because in some cases, flying is the only travel option and travelers don’t control what fuel airlines use. Biofuel use for aviation is still being researched. If travel is unavoidable, we encourage purchasing high quality, third-party verified carbon offsets to help address emissions from travel. For OSU funded travel, the Sustainability Office offers assistance to campus units by sourcing high quality offsets and bundling offset purchases.

How it Works

The Sustainability Office has created this request form for OSU units and travelers to offset their carbon emissions from OSU funded travel. This system can be used for air or ground travel. With basic information about the travel itinerary we can estimate carbon emitted during travel and arrange for the right amount of offsets. Bulk purchases will be coordinated by the Sustainability Office several times each fiscal year in cooperation with your business center and others. Our current vendor is Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Travel Offsets at OSU

If you would like to offset multiple trips, please create a personal log and enter the trips into the request form as one bundle.

Before completing the request form, please review the steps below.

     

STEP 1  

Identify who traveled or will travel on the same itinerary. Travelers with different itineraries must fill out separate requests.      

        

STEP 2  

Determine if you or your department would like to set a maximum spend for your offset purchase, or get a cost estimate prior to travel.

     

STEP 3 

Gather trip details. Did you track miles for a trip rather than origin/destination? No problem! You can either enter the trip segments based on origin/destination OR the total miles traveled.

      

STEP 4 

You are ready to submit your offset request! Please fill out the request form here. We'll work with your budget authority and business center on the purchase, and follow up with you if we have questions.

What We're Purchasing

Supporting the local and regional economy is important to OSU. Because the availability of offset projects change, OSU will support various projects over fiscal years. In partnership with the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Carbon Commitment and Bonneville Environmental Foundation, OSU purchased offsets from the Winston Creek Carbon Project and the B6 Dairy Farm BioFactory Project in June 2020. 

 

The Impact at OSU - why use this system?

As a research intensive university and as part of the Pac-12 athletics conference, OSU students, faculty and staff travel a lot. At times, there are alternatives to travel and ways to reduce trip length, like in this article from Nature. While some airlines offer an option to offset their flight’s carbon emissions, not all do. And the quality of the offset relative to the expense may not provide value due to high overhead, processing fees, markups or other factors. OSU’s program allows our travelers to offset with minimal effort their emissions from OSU funded travel.

It’s important to purchase a third-party verified product. Centralizing OSU purchases ensures high-quality carbon offsets are purchased and leverages the economy of scale that comes with a large institution. 

Did you know? If OSU departments purchased offsets for all air travel, it would reduce our institutional greenhouse gas emissions by 11%!  If all OSU-funded travel were offset, total emissions would drop by 14%!

Personal Travel

This voluntary offset program is only for OSU funded travel.  However, it is still possible to offset your emissions for personal travel!  Bonneville Environmental Foundation offers options to purchase personal, third-party verified offsets. There are other vendors too. These transactions are not measured or coordinated through the OSU Sustainability Office.

Not sure how many offsets to purchase?

Calculate your carbon footprint with the Sustainability Office's Carbon Calculator!

Possible providers for personal travel

Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) - purchase here.

TerraPass - purchase here.

Examples of Carbon Prices

Offset prices vary greatly. This table lists example price ranges from verified, peer reviewed sources.

Project Description Price per Unit
Winston Creek Project

The Winston Creek Project achieves greenhouse gas reduction by extending the rotation age of forest stands.

$10-12
B6 Dairy Farm BioFactory Project The B6 Dairy Farm BioFactory Project consists of the installation of an anaerobic digester and generator at the B6 dairy farm in Idaho. $11.50
California Cap-and-Trade Program 2020 Annual Auction Reserve Price (Source) $16.68
Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) The SCC is a measure of the long-term effects done by one ton of CO2 emissions in a year (EPA). $42

1 unit = 1 metric ton of CO2 emissions kept from the atmosphere