A Carbon Offsetting Handbook

Although the footprint of the UK has shrunk in recent years, there is more to be done. UK residents as well as people around the world need to understand the urgency of the climate crisis. 

Buckingham Futures’ CEO Ketan Dattani’s recommendation:

“We all need to be aware of ways that we can individually reduce our carbon footprints without waiting for governments to change things on a policy level.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, Footprint (consumption) emissions cover the consumption of all goods and services by the UK, sometimes referred to as the “carbon footprint”; it was estimated to be 582 MtCO2e in 2020”. The carbon footprint includes all greenhouse gas emissions made by citizens and companies. The emissions from both the United Kingdom and the rest of the world are staggering. 

There are many steps that both organizations and individuals can take to reduce that number. 

Carbon emissions can be divided into 4 categories. Including: 

Consumption: refers to emissions of greenhouse gases resulting from the purchase of clothing, household, items, and personal purchases. This includes emissions from the collection of materials, production of goods, and transportation.

  • Ways to reduce: Avoiding fast fashion, and overconsumption of material items can reduce consumption emissions. 

Food: this category includes all emissions associated with food that is purchased and thrown away. Pesticide use and transportation of foods contribute to this category of carbon emissions. Additionally, livestock are responsible for a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions, specifically beef. In a groundbreaking study done in 2023 by Oxford University, researchers learned that “having big UK meat-eaters cut some of it out of their diet would be like taking 8 million cars off the road” (Ghosh). Our food choices have as much impact on the environment as the car that we drive or the waste that we produce. 

  • Ways to reduce: Reducing the amount of beef in your diet by half could go a long way toward the reduction of emissions. Purchasing produce that is in season, grown locally, and buying only what you can eat, can help reduce your emissions as well. 

Transportation: the transportation sector contributes greatly to the amount of emissions. This includes all emissions associated with commuting and travel. 

  • Ways to reduce: Take mass transit whenever possible. Walking and cycling are also great options (not only for your carbon footprint but for your health). You should avoid driving a gas car as much as possible. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, consider electric or hybrid options. 

Household Energy: this final category encompasses energy emissions from the home. These emissions are a result of not turning off lights and energy sources when not in use, excessive water use, inefficient appliances, and poor insulation that leads to overheating. 

  • Ways to reduce: Making an effort to turn off lights when not in use, taking shorter showers, not overwatering plants, updating appliances, and insulating homes properly can all help to reduce household energy emissions. Additionally, using renewable energy sources in the home, like solar panels, would help even more.

In an ideal world, we would produce close to zero greenhouse gases. However, we cannot shower in the dark or forage for our food. For the times we cannot avoid producing emissions, one way to bring emissions closer to net zero is by carbon offsetting.

A Guide to Carbon Offsetting

What is Carbon Offsetting? 

According to the Carbon Offset Guide by the Stockholm Environment Institute, “A carbon offset broadly refers to a reduction in GHG emissions – or an increase in carbon storage (e.g., through land restoration or the planting of trees) – that is used to compensate for emissions that occur elsewhere.” The most common carbon offsetting scheme is tree planting. 

When and How Do I Utilise Carbon Offsetting? 

It is important to remember that carbon offsetting should be your last resort. Offsetting does not replace the reduction of emissions, but rather they work together. You can use carbon offsetting in a lot of ways. The standard practice is offsetting when you travel. You can usually find out online, based on the length of your plane, train, or car journey, how much you emitted. The most common carbon offsetting scheme is tree planting. You would then take your estimated amount of emissions and plant the number of trees needed to offset those emissions. 

You can plant these trees yourself, or donate the money to a tree planting project to do it for you. Make sure the organization you choose is ethical and successful. The best way to verify this is by visiting https://www.goldstandard.org/ and viewing the projects that are endorsed. This benchmark is internationally recognized. 


Carbon Offset Guide. (n.d.). What is a Carbon Offset? Carbon Offset Guide. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from https://www.offsetguide.org/understanding-carbon-offsets/what-is-a-carbon-offset/

Christenson, A. (n.d.). Measuring UK greenhouse gas emissions – Office for National Statistics. Www.ons.gov.uk. Retrieved February 20, 2024, from https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/methodologies/measuringukgreenhousegasemissions#:~:text=Territorial%20emissions%20cover%20emissions%20that

Energy Education. (n.d.). CO2 footprint – Energy Education. Energyeducation.ca. Retrieved February 20, 2024, from https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/CO2_footprint#:~:text=The%20major%20contributors%20to%20carbon

Ghosh, P. (2023, July 20). Eating less meat “like taking 8m cars off road.” BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-66238584

Grewal, H. K. (2023, June 7). UK carbon footprint shrinks but more must be done. Facilitate Magazine. https://www.facilitatemagazine.com/content/news/2023/06/07/uk-carbon-footprint-shrinks-more-must-be-done

Understanding carbon offsetting | WWF. (n.d.). Www.wwf.org.uk. Retrieved February 20, 2024, from https://www.wwf.org.uk/myfootprint/challenges/understanding-carbon-offsetting