What to Know About Buying Carbon Offsets
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What to Know About Buying Carbon Offsets

The purchases help consumers address climate change by seeking to ease the emissions impact.

By VERONICA DAGHER
Fri, Oct 29, 2021 10:51amGrey Clock 3 min

Some consumers might feel eco-guilt about the takeout containers they have been throwing away or the additional packages they have been shipping from Amazon. Offsets are emerging as a way for people to mitigate the effects of shopping, shipping and travel.

There is no way to take back the carbon you have put in the air through activities such as driving your car or heating your house, and the surest way to reduce your carbon footprint is to drive, fly or buy less. Carbon offsets, created about 20 years ago, claim to provide a way for consumers and institutions to balance out their carbon footprint by investing in environmental projects that remove carbon-dioxide emissions from—or avoid adding them to—the atmosphere.

Offsets are easier than ever to buy online. The coming climate-change summit in Glasgow, called COP26, could put offsets on the radar of more consumers.

It is a tricky topic to navigate, though. The market for offsets isn’t regulated and the quality and authenticity of projects vary widely. It is difficult to know whether offsets purchased will actually make an impact on emissions, said Travis Miller, a stock analyst at Morningstar who specializes in energy and utilities.

Here is what to know about assessing and buying offsets now.

Who sells carbon offsets?

Carbon offsets are credits purchased from projects that are designed to reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. These can include investing in a reforestation project in California or constructing cookstoves in Honduras, said Peter Miller, a director of climate and clean energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Nonprofits are among the most reputable providers from which consumers may buy offsets, said Clint Henderson, senior news editor at The Points Guy travel website. Nonprofits such as Cool Effect and Carbonfund.org act as a bridge between people and the organizations that create and maintain carbon-reducing projects.

Offsets are measured and sold in metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent. One metric ton of carbon-dioxide equivalent is roughly equal to the size of a two-story house, said Dee Lawrence, co-founder of Cool Effect, which sells offsets to consumers.

Why do people buy carbon offsets?

Consumers can buy offsets to lessen carbon emissions for things as diverse as their vacation, the type of car they drive and the size of their house.

First, they can estimate the impact of their lifestyle—such as how much waste they dispose of, or how many loads of laundry they wash in hot water—by using an online calculator, such as the one from the Environmental Protection Agency or the Nature Conservancy. They could then buy offsets from a provider that sources emissions-reducing projects.

For example, if you fly 10,000 miles, you could buy offsets on Carbonfund.org for $20 to compensate for that flight’s emissions. The price of air-travel offsets is usually dependent on the length of the flight and the class of service, said Mr. Henderson at The Points Guy.

American Airlines gives fliers the option to buy offsets through a partnership with Cool Effect, such as when they purchase their tickets or after the flight. You can get an estimate of your air-travel emissions on Google Flights.

When an individual buys carbon offsets, that person’s money is typically pooled with others’, in a practice somewhat akin to crowdfunding. Together—by funding, say, a wind farm in rural Indiana—Mr. Miller at Morningstar said consumers can collectively reduce the amount of carbon going into the air.

How to know the value of an offset

Valuing offsets can be a bit “squishy,” said Mr. Henderson at The Points Guy. Consumers might never see the project firsthand, and they trust that the project they support is actually effective in reducing emissions.

To identify legitimate projects, look for those that clearly specify how emissions are reduced and reported, said Tensie Whelan, director of the Center for Sustainable Business at NYU Stern School of Business.

Generally, Prof. Whelan said, stay away from individuals selling offsets to their personal projects over social media or claiming to run an offset project that doesn’t have third-party oversight. Each metric ton of emissions consumers buy should have a unique serial number. That number helps ensure reductions aren’t resold and double counted, Prof. Whelan said.

Check that the project has permanence. For example, a project for fast-growing eucalyptus that will be cut down in 10 years would lack permanence. Also, make sure the project has independent third-party certification.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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