Do Carbon Offsets Really Work? It Depends on the Details

Last week, JetBlue announced it will offset its 15 billion to 17 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon credits and pumping cleaner-burning aviation fuel into planes landing at San Francisco International Airport. Great! Or is it? American corporations across the economy are trying to build up their green credentials, and carbon offsets seem to be the hammer of choice.

Investment and university pension funds, cement manufacturers, home heating distributors, tech giants like Google and Amazon, and the ride-hailing firm Lyft all say they are reducing their carbon footprint through similar offsets. Yet some critics worry the programs are an excuse to not take tougher measures to curb climate change. If not done right, the purchase of offsets can act as a marketing campaign that ends up providing cover for companies’ climate-harming practices.

When a company buys offsets, it helps fund projects elsewhere to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as planting trees in Indonesia or installing giant machines inside California dairies that suck up the methane produced by burping and farting cows and turn it into a usable biofuel. What offsets don’t do is force their buyer to change any of its operations.

Supporters of offsets say they are only an acceptable tool once companies have done everything they can to pollute less, such as tightening up manufacturing processes, cutting down on office heating, or making delivery trucks run on cleaner fuels. Purchasing carbon offsets “is clearly better than doing nothing,” says Cameron Hepburn, who directs Oxford University’s economics of sustainability program. They can also help finance emerging green practices, technologies, and services that otherwise might struggle to find customers. “We know we will have to remove a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and offsets are helpful in priming that market,” Hepburn says. But he and others caution that carbon offsets still need third-party verification to make sure they do what they are supposed to do, and that the specific carbon-reducing action wouldn’t have been taken otherwise.

That’s where it gets messy, says Barbara Haya, a research fellow at UC Berkeley, where she studies the effectiveness of carbon offset programs. “What would JetBlue have done if they couldn’t buy offsets?” Haya says. “Would they have put money into efficiency of the planes, or invested in future biofuels to create a long-term alternative to fossil fuels? That’s the fundamental question we have to ask for voluntary offsets: How much is it taking the place of real long-term solutions?”

Haya points to JetBlue’s investment in sustainable aviation fuel as a big plus, unlike some airlines that only buy the offset and continue with business as usual. Haya is helping the University of California’s 10 campuses become carbon neutral by 2025. To reach that goal, the university system will have to both cut back on energy use and purchase offsets. Because solar and wind power are now price-competitive with fossil fuel-generated electricity in California, using those renewable sources of energy is good for the planet and helps the university reduce its emissions, but it won’t qualify as a carbon offset, Haya says.

Instead, the big push in California now is for forest regeneration (namely, planting more trees) and changing farming practices. Disney, ConocoPhillips, and Poseidon Resources bought $6.7 million worth of offsets to restore and replant a 100-acre parcel of a state park in the mountains west of San Diego. In 2018, the latest year for which data is available, such nature-based solutions accounted for a reduction of 100 million metric tons of CO2 globally, according to a recent report by the nonprofit group Forest Trends. That reflects about $300 million in purchased offsets.

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Scientists Are Probing How Ginkgo Trees Stay Youthful for Hundreds of Years

A single Ginkgo biloba tree might drop its distinct fan-shaped leaves every year for centuries, if not millennia. For perspective, one that’s about 1,300 years old — nearing the upper limits of documented ginkgo lifespan — first sprouted when the Byzantine empire was still young

And as ginkgo age, they don’t just survive — they thrive. Though 600-year-old ginkgos grow thinner annual rings, they’re likely to pump out just as much defensive and immune-supporting chemicals as their younger relatives, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Young at 300

From this data, it appears that Ginkgo biloba, native to China, don’t have a predetermined lifespan. Unlike annuals that die off every year, “there’s no end point in their ability to keep growing,” says Rick Dixon, a biochemist at the University of North Texas and co-author of the paper.

Not only do individual ginkgos grow old, the entire species is prehistoric; some fossilized leaves date to 200 million years ago. Understanding aging in these long-lived, ancient species is difficult, however. Study co-author Jinxing Lin of the Beijing Forestry University was already deploying genome-sequencing technology to decode the ginkgo longevity techniques before Dixon entered the project.

The team focused on the cambium, or the surface layer that grows each year, creating trees’ annual rings. DNA sequences and genome analysis from nine ginkgos — with ages around 20, 200 or 600 years old — showed that genes responsible for thickening each layer were less active in the older trees.

But other signs of aging didn’t appear. Most plants eventually reach senescence — or, as Dixon puts it, a period of “gradually croaking.” Genes responsible for that life phase weren’t any more active in the oldest ginkgo specimen.

Ginkgos, like other trees, produce antioxidants and antimicrobials to stay healthy, too — redwoods have such a high concentration of the latter, the molecules give the species its distinct hue, Dixon says. The various genes needed to produce those compounds appeared to be just as active in the old ginkgo trees as they were in the young ones, as were genes related to the ginkgo immune system.

With a strong immune system and no sign of senescence, “there’s no programmed mechanism for death that we could ascertain from [this] study,” Dixon says.

Secrets to a Long Life

As for how ginkgos have dodged clear signs of decay, Dixon says it’s not clear. If stressed or sick, many types of trees will devote more of their energy stores to immune defense instead of growth, he says. But it’s unclear if ginkgos reallocate resources that way.

Dixon does think it’s possible similar mechanisms are at work in other long-lived species, such as redwoods (which have an average lifespan of 800 to 1,500 years) and English yew (which aren’t considered “old” until they’re 900 or so.)

Dixon points out that they didn’t measure actual levels of antioxidants or immunity boosters in the trees — just the genes indicating their presence. Also, the team only studied the cambium for signs of aging. The root system probably deserves some attention too, Dixon says.

Next up, the team might see if Ginkgo biloba DNA, like our own genetic code, gains mutations as the tree ages. But, who knows: The tree might have a way to prevent that, too.

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Quick, Simple No-Bake Vegan Recipes!

Delicate spices make flavorful food — but did you know they are also super healthy for you? Herbs and spices come from various parts of a plant, flowers, leaves, seeds, and more — and each one has unique health benefits. An easy way to add a burst of health to your daily routine is to add one of our Raw Herbal Extracts™ to a no-bake recipe. Heat changes some of the components of herbs and spices, so while you can cook with them, you lose some of the health benefits. On the other hand, when you add a dropper or two into a delicious, simple-to-make recipe, you get the best of both worlds: Great taste, plus an easy way to add vitamins, antioxidants, and health to your day.

4 Simple No-Bake Recipes

The following recipes are not only great for anyone with a sweet tooth, but they are plant-based, as well!

Golden Milk Overnight Oats

This recipe is out of this world! The prep time is practically nonexistent, and it’s incredibly delicious. It uses our Turmeric Raw Herbal Extract and a touch of ginger for a slightly sweet, unique breakfast idea. Use the milky version of coconut milk for this recipe, not the canned variety.


Golden milk overnight oats nutrition facts.

  • A large glass container

  • Spoon


  • ⅔ cup rolled oats

  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds

  • ¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk

  • 2 droppers Turmeric Raw Herbal Extract

  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

  • ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger

  • 3 drops Stevia liquid

  • 1 teaspoon crystallized ginger pieces


  1. Add all ingredients to a large glass container and stir together well.

  2. Store in refrigerator overnight.

  3. If desired, top with chopped nuts or toasted coconut flakes before serving.

Nutty Oatmeal Bars

These homemade granola bars are simple to make. Plus, you know they have no artificial preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup. That means they are healthy snacks for you and your family! It also makes a healthy no-bake dessert recipe.


Nutty oatmeal bar nutrition facts.

  • Small saucepan

  • Food processor

  • Knife

  • Cutting board

  • Spatula

  • 8×8 baking dish

  • Parchment paper


  • 1 cup Medjool dates (pitted, chopped, firmly packed)

  • ¼ cup maple syrup

  • ¼ cup salted almond butter

  • 2 droppers Tulsi Raw Herbal Extract

  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds (loosely chopped)

  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats, separated into two portions

  • ¼ cup raisins or other dried fruit

  • A sprinkle of organic chocolate chips, cacao nibs, or other additions (optional)


  1. Add dates to a food processor. If you use whole dates, make sure to remove the inner pit before processing. Process until it resembles dough; it may ball up.

  2. Add dates to a mixing bowl.

  3. Add half the oats in the food processor and process gently. The finer consistency will help the bars stick together.

  4. Add the processed oats, the unprocessed oats, and the almonds to the mixing bowl where the dates are. Set aside.

  5. Heat salted almond butter and maple syrup over low heat so that it becomes more liquified. Add Tulsi extract.

  6. Pour almond butter mixture over the other ingredients and mix well, breaking up the dates so that they spread throughout the dough.

  7. Place a sheet of parchment paper at the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish. You can also use a loaf pan, but the bars may be thicker.

  8. Press down on the bars using something like the bottom of a glass to help them stick together.

  9. Cover with parchment paper and let firm up in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. At room temperature, they will not stick together as well.

Note: Make sure to use salted almond butter for a great salty-sweet taste for these bars. If you want a delicious chocolate-peanut butter vibe (or almond butter, technically), add cacao nibs or organic chocolate chips.

Morning Mango Chia Pudding

This awesome recipe works great for either a super healthy breakfast or a light dessert — without the guilt!


Mango chia pudding nutrition facts.

  • Blender

  • Medium mixing bowl

  • Spatula

  • A large glass container


  • 10 oz bag frozen mango chunks, thawed

  • ½ cup chia seeds

  • 13.5 oz can of reduced-fat coconut milk

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 1 dropper Moringa Raw Herbal Extract


  1. Reserve a few of the defrosted mango chunks for a topping. Add the rest of the bag to a blender.

  2. Transfer the mango puree into a medium mixing bowl, using a spatula to make sure you get everything.

  3. Open the can of coconut milk (note this is not the “milk” but the canned variety). You can use full-fat coconut milk, but the coconut oil in it will solidify, creating hard chunks of oil in the recipe compared with the reduced-fat variety.

  4. Add coconut milk, chia, and maple syrup to the bowl and stir gently.

  5. Put into a large glass container and top with a few chunks of mango.

  6. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Sleepytime Banana Ice Cream

Finding a good dairy-free ice cream substitute can be a challenge. Many people love one-ingredient banana “ice cream” — sometimes called “nice cream” in the vegan world. Essentially, you take frozen bananas, puree them in a food processor, and you have an instant, healthy frozen treat! You can add ingredients to add flavor. I recommend that you generally like bananas to try this recipe. We’ve created a blend with Valerian Raw Herbal Extract™ plus delicate, sweet spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and cacao. It’s packed full of flavor, and can even help you drift off to la-la land.


Banana ice cream nutrition facts.

  • Blender or food processor

  • Knife

  • Cookie sheet


  • 3 frozen, ripened bananas

  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk

  • 1 dropper Valerian Raw Herbal Extract

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 3 tablespoons cacao powder (you can substitute organic cocoa powder)


  1. Slice bananas and place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Freeze for one to two hours. Freezing them individually keeps them from sticking together.

  2. Once the banana chunks are frozen, add them to a blender or food processor. If you are having trouble blending the bananas, add up to ¼ cup of almond milk.

  3. Add in the vanilla, cinnamon, cacao, and Valerian.

  4. Blend until creamy.

  5. Serve immediately or store in the freezer.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.