FAQs

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. Watch offsetters explain it for you!

What sets the Finger Lakes Climate Fund apart from other organizations offering carbon offsets is that we focus on local projects in the Finger Lakes Region, ensuring that your money goes to work here in our own community. Additionally, our offset grants go to lower-income households to make their homes more energy efficient. Our offset projects contribute to our local economy and local families in need. We consider it a Win-Win-Win for our offsetters, lower-income residents, and our local economy.

The true social cost of your CO2 emissions is estimated to be at least $125 per ton, based on estimates of the damage caused by climate change in the future (NYS DEC Value of Carbon). But the Finger Lakes Climate Fund is charging 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.

You can donate to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund in order to offset the carbon emissions associated with your home energy use, vehicle travel, or airplane travel. The money you donate contributes to reducing carbon emissions through a local energy efficiency project that would not otherwise be possible, thereby offsetting, or cancelling out, your carbon emissions. Hear from Inshik about offsetting her air travel.

Donations to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund are used for grants to pay for energy efficiency projects in low-to-moderate income households in the Finger Lakes Region. These grants help pay for insulation, air sealing, energy efficient heating equipment like heat pumps, and other upgrades to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. In the first ten years of the Climate Fund, we awarded grants worth over $115,000 for 63 energy efficiency projects in 9 counties.

The energy efficiency upgrades are carried out by certified contractors. Using guidelines provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the contractors use validated software programs to accurately estimate the carbon savings that will result from the energy renovations over the lifespan of the improvements. The energy saving estimates for the projects are also verified by a third party organization that oversees the work of the certified contractors. This ensures that your carbon offset donations are resulting in actual greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Of course, the first step is to try to minimize your personal emissions by using less energy at home, driving less, and traveling fewer miles by plane. For more information on reducing your personal greenhouse gas emissions please visit the Reduce Your Emissions section. Nobody expects you to reach net zero carbon right away! Just get on the path by enrolling in programs like HeatSmart Tompkins, HeatSmart CNY, HeatSmart Southern Tier, or HeatSmart FLX South to get help making your home climate smart. Meanwhile, be sure to offset the rest with the Climate Fund!

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 more information on finding the equivalent of your carbon offset, visit the EPA’s online Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. For folks in our area, 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.

Find out how people apply to the Climate Fund.

A grants review committee assists Sustainable Tompkins with approving offset projects that are funded through the Finger Lakes Climate Fund. The committee consists of Ian Shapiro, President of Taitem Engineering; Cole Tucker, Energy Engineer at Cornell University; Chris Balbach of Performance Systems; and Gay Nicholson, creator of the Climate Fund and President of Sustainable Tompkins. They review the documentation submitted by energy contractors to verify the expected carbon reductions, and then forward the project to the Sustainable Tompkins Board of Directors for approval. The process usually only takes a couple of weeks before an award check is mailed out.

NYSERDA Certified Energy contractors across our region may submit proposals for modest-income families they are working with 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 all energy measures over their lifespans by $25 per ton.
Our goals for the projects are to reduce carbon emissions, help local families who need assistance, and strengthen our local economy. Qualified applicants must have incomes that are 80% or less of the median income for their household size in their county. You can see if you qualify by visiting NYSERDA’s income guidelines for participating in Assisted Home Performance. The Climate Fund uses the same income guidelines.

Sarah from Snug Planet shares how the Climate Fund made the difference for a single mom.

After witnessing a lack of transparency and accountability in the early carbon markets, Sustainable Tompkins decided to create our 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 of the major crises facing humanity today: climate change and income inequality.

Local carbon offsets allow you to see the results of your purchase right here in our 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 also 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.

Watch Irene explain why she makes local carbon offsets.

Remember, the future is counting on us!
“It is very difficult to manage the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness as an individual within a problem so huge it could consume and affect every human on the planet. But hearing that there are hundreds of people coming together to encourage a shift to clean energy and reduce the climate burden on my generation lifts a weight off my chest. There is still so much to be done, but it is good to know that I can get involved right off campus to actively make a difference.” – A Student

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