Carbon offsets allow people to take responsibility for the fossil carbon emissions associated with their lifestyles. The energy we use in our homes, the fuel we burn in our cars, and the pollution that comes from air travel all generate greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. By purchasing carbon offsets, you can invest in a clean energy project that will reduce carbon emissions an equal amount to “cancel out” your emissions. For every ton of your own carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, you can pay to reduce CO2 emissions elsewhere by pooling your offset dollars with those of others to pay for renewable energy or efficiency projects that reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Carbon offset donations made by individuals and businesses to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund go directly towards grants for low-to-moderate income families in the Finger Lakes region to upgrade their homes with energy efficiency features such as air sealing, insulation, heat pumps, and heat pump water heaters. These upgrades make the homes safer, healthier, more comfortable, and more affordable long-term for their residents. The home energy upgrades support our community in the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy that is essential to combat climate change.

Offsetting one ton of carbon emissions is equivalent to saving 102 gallons of gas, planting 15 trees, taking an average car off the road for two months, or powering an average US home for one month. For folks in Ithaca, you can think of a ton of CO2 emissions as your share of a flight to Los Angeles and back, or driving the average car about 1250 miles. For more information on finding the equivalent of your carbon offset check out the EPA’s online Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

A grants review committee assists Sustainable Finger Lakes with approving offset projects that are funded through the Finger Lakes Climate Fund. NYSERDA Certified Energy contractors across our region may submit proposals for low-to-moderate income clients where a grant from the Climate Fund would make the difference for the homeowner in being able to afford the recommended energy improvements. The projects must result in actual carbon reductions greater than or equal to the amount of the grant. The award is calculated by multiplying the total tons of CO2 emission reductions from the recommended energy measures over their lifespans by $25 per ton.

After witnessing a lack of transparency and accountability in the early carbon markets, Sustainable Finger Lakes decided to create its own local carbon offset fund that would be more visible and responsive to local needs. We also wanted to take a systems approach and address two major crises facing humanity today: climate change and income inequality.

Local carbon offsets allow you to see the results of your purchase right in your own community. Local offsets also help support the local economy by generating work for energy efficiency businesses. The Finger Lakes Climate Fund’s unique focus on low-to-moderate-income households has the benefit of helping people in our community who really need it. Other carbon offset suppliers don’t offer these kinds of local benefits that you’ll find with the Finger Lakes Climate Fund

Begin by contacting your local Clean Energy Hub. Find your Clean Energy Hub here. They can advise you regarding your options for contractors, possible incentives, and arranging a free home energy audit. If you prefer, you can also go directly to a NYSERDA approved contractor and ask them for an estimate on the work you would like done which includes any incentives you are eligible for. Find a NYSERDA approved contractor here. Many contractors are familiar with the Finger Lakes Climate Fund and can let you know if you are eligible to apply for gap-funding from the Fund. Your contractor is responsible for applying to the Climate Fund.

Yes! Businesses are essential partners in this work. To achieve climate goals, it is critical to increase the pace and scale of home energy upgrades. The Finger Lakes Enterprises for Climate Action (FLECA)campaign was designed specifically for businesses and organizations to offset their carbon emissions with the Finger Lakes Climate Fund. Their contributions increase the number of families who receive the gap funding necessary to improve their homes and get off fossil fuels. FLECA members receive additional recognition in our publications for their vision and commitment to equity and the planet. 

The true social cost of your CO2 emissions is estimated to be at least $125 per ton, but the Finger Lakes Climate Fund subsidizes only $25 per ton to make it more affordable for everyone to accept responsibility for their unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions. We can do this because your offset dollars get combined with other state incentives and utility rebates for lower-income members of our community to pay for clean energy improvements to their homes. Often, our carbon offset grants provide the gap financing to move an energy efficiency project forward when existing incentives are too low.