What is Less?
Less is a Canadian provider of high quality carbon offsets for businesses and individuals interested in lessening their environmental impact. According to the David Suzuki Foundation's 2008 report Doing Business in a New Climate: A Guide to Measuring, Reducing and Offsetting Greenhouse Gas Emissions, "Quality is critical to ensure that the investment in offsets accomplishes its primary purpose: to mitigate climate change by achieving new and lasting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions."
How can I purchase Less offsets?
Less offers two convenient options for purchasing offsets. Through Lessen My Flight™, an independently audited flight offset program, customers can calculate and purchase offsets to help mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with necessary air travel.
In addition, customers who have conducted their own carbon calculation or emissions footprint assessment may purchase high quality offsets directly, as required.
Why has Less committed to an annual independent audit?
Less has committed to an annual independent audit by an internationally recognized auditing firm in order to demonstrate that all international offsets are certified as Gold Standard and all Canadian offsets have achieved the VER+ Standard certification. Audits confirm all offsets are retired on behalf of Less customers to preclude double-counting of the environmental benefits. The audit is also designed to validate that Less has sourced sufficient inventory to meet or exceed its contracted commitments. As a result, the audit ensures that businesses and individuals can purchase Less offsets with confidence, eliminating the risks inherent in purchasing low-quality offsets.
Click here to read the latest audit.
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Lessening Your Environmental Footprint
What is climate change?
Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are generated through fossil fuel combustion, industrial processes, and agricultural operations. These greenhouse gases are trapped within our atmosphere where they restrict infrared radiation and heat from exiting the atmosphere. Over time this heat builds up and increases the average global temperature, which directly alters the Earth’s climate. The Earth’s climate and ecosystem are finely balanced. A small change can therefore have significant consequences.
What are greenhouse gases?
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the Earth’s temperature to rise. Six GHGs are targeted under the Kyoto Protocol due to the significant impact these gases have on our atmosphere and the tremendous volume produced as a result of human activities. For a list of how the Environmental Protection Agency defines greenhouse gases click here.
Are there different types of emissions?
There are two types of emissions: direct and indirect. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative defines direct emissions as those originating from sources that are owned or controlled by an organization (Scope 1). Examples include those emitted directly from a manufacturing site or from company-owned fleet vehicles. Indirect emissions are those emissions created as a consequence of the activities of an organization, but generated from sources owned or controlled by another entity. Examples of indirect emissions include those associated with purchased electricity (Scope 2) or employee air travel (Scope 3).
Overview of scopes and emissions across a value chain
Source: The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, World Resources Institute, p.26. (www.ghgprotocol.org/files/ghgp/public/ghg-protocol-revised.pdf)
What is offsetting?
Offsetting is a mechanism that allows individuals and organizations to address their environmental impact. Carbon offsets are designed to help mitigate the emissions associated with one activity (such as necessary air travel) with another activity elsewhere that avoids or reduces an equivalent amount of emissions. For example, the impact of greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with a flight from Toronto to Calgary may be neutralized by preventing the release of an equivalent amount of GHGs through the implementation of a renewable energy or energy efficiency project elsewhere in the world.
What is CO2e?
CO2e, or “carbon dioxide equivalent,” is a unit of measurement that is used to relate different greenhouse gases and their warming potentials to that of CO2. For instance, 25 molecules of carbon dioxide have the same warming potential on the earth’s temperature as one molecule of methane. 22,200 molecules of carbon dioxide have the same warming potential on the earth’s temperature as one molecule of sulphur hexaflouride.
Once released into the atmosphere, GHGs remain there for a very long time. For example, on average, one molecule of methane remains in the atmosphere 12 times longer than one molecule of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is estimated to remain in the atmosphere anywhere from 5 years to 200 years depending on where it is released in the atmosphere.
What does warming potential mean?
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming potentials (GWPs) are used to compare the abilities of different greenhouse gases to trap heat in the atmosphere. GWPs are based on the radiative efficiency (heat-absorbing ability) of each gas relative to that of carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as the decay rate of each gas (the amount removed from the atmosphere over a given number of years) relative to that of CO2. The GWP provides a construct for converting emissions of various gases into a common measure, which allows climate analysts to aggregate the radiative impacts of various greenhouse gases into a uniform measure denominated in carbon or carbon dioxide equivalents. For a table of GWPs for the different greenhouse gases click here.
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What type of projects do Less offsets come from and where are they located?
Less sources offsets from Gold Standard-certified projects located in developing countries and VER+ Standard-certified projects located here in Canada.
See our projects page for information on some of our featured projects.
How does Less ensure that the greenhouse gas reductions associated with its offsets are quantified accurately?
All Less offsets meet the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) criteria for quantification. Gold Standard and VER+ Standard-certified projects use methodology approved by the UNFCCC
Methodology Panel (MP) and CDM Executive Board (EB) for defining the baseline, evaluating the project emissions and emissions reductions, and determining the monitoring procedure for a project.
This means there are accurate measurements of the emissions that would have occurred in the absence of the project and the emissions reductions occurring as a result of the project.
With its Gold Standard offsets, why is Less sourcing offsets from renewable energy projects?
Less is focused on providing the highest quality offsets. Gold Standard-certified projects achieve GHG emissions reductions through projects in developing countries that focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. All projects are tested to ensure that they go beyond business as usual in terms of creating positive impacts for the environment, social networks and the local economy in which they operate. Currently, Less' Gold Standard offsets are from renewable energy projects that are achieving quantifiable emissions reductions by replacing fossil fuel-based energy generation sources. The emissions reductions calculated are permanent and are verified to have taken place. By contrast, projects that rely on storing carbon, such as tree planting, run the risk of sequestering carbon over an undetermined period of time. In some cases, there is no certainty that the amount of carbon projected to be offset at the beginning of the project will actually be mitigated/offset.
Are there any Gold Standard-certified offsets from projects located in Canada?
At this time there are no Gold Standard-certified offsets projects located in Canada. However, Less offers offsets sourced from Canadian projects that have achieved the VER+ Standard, a globally recognized and respected standard for voluntary GHG emissions reduction projects. VER+ certification follows the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism methodologies and enables projects located in developed countries—and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the Gold Standard and United Nations certification program—to meet equivalent performance standards and deliver high quality emissions reductions. The certification program is managed by TÜV SÜD, one of the leading companies providing validation and verification services for offset projects adhering to Kyoto Protocol processes. Similar to the Gold Standard verification process, auditors ensure projects follow requirements defined by the World Bank and the International Emissions Trading Association.
How does Less ensure offsets are sold only to one buyer (not double-counted)?
Less provides an annual independent audit by an internationally recognized auditing firm to demonstrate that all international offsets are derived from Gold Standard-certified projects and all Canadian offsets are derived from VER+ Standard-certified projects. The audit ensures serialized offsets are retired on behalf of Less customers to preclude double-counting of the environmental benefits. It is also designed to validate that Less has sourced sufficient offsets from Gold Standard and VER+ Standard-certified projects to meet or exceed its contracted commitments.
Click here to read the latest audit.
Can I direct my funds to specific projects?
You can choose offsets from Gold Standard-certified international projects, or VER+ Standard-certified Canadian projects.
Read more about some of our featured projects here
Can I go carbon neutral with Less?
Less provides businesses and individuals with the choice to purchase Gold Standard-certified international offsets or VER+ certified Canadian offsets to lessen their environmental footprint and reduce their emissions. Organizations considering moving towards carbon neutrality should first measure their footprint and understand those activities or products contributing to their baseline emissions. Less advocates a three-step approach, which is also endorsed by leading environmental groups, to reduce the organization's emissions footprint: first, conserve; second, switch to environmentally benign or lower impact products and services for those resources that must be consumed; and finally, when efforts to conserve and switch to green have been maximized, offset any remaining, "unavoidable" emissions by purchasing high quality offsets.
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About the Gold Standard
What is the Gold Standard?
The Gold Standard is a non-profit foundation, based in Basel, Switzerland. Founded in 2003 by a number of organizations including the World Wildlife Fund, the Gold Standard Foundation believes that the only real way to solve the climate problem is to change how energy is used and how much of it is consumed. The Gold Standard certification system was created to help ensure that carbon markets, along with finance, work toward a long-term climate solution and stimulate sustainable development. Since fossil fuels are responsible for over 60% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, Gold Standard projects exclusively focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that reduce emissions at the source. Today, the Gold Standard label receives worldwide recognition and is officially supported by more than 80 environmental and development organizations. Gold Standard certification is restricted to projects located in developing countries.
The Gold Standard only certifies offsets from projects that meet the following criteria:
- Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects
- Projects that have passed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change test for additionality. (Click here to view the test criteria for our offsets)
- Projects that have demonstrated sustainable development.
What is the Gold Standard Methodology?
The Gold Standard Methodology is a layer of quality tests that is additional to the Clean Development Mechanism project requirements. The Gold Standard adds three specific screens for quality control:
- Does the project use renewable energy or energy efficiency technologies?
- Does the project go above and beyond a “business as usual” scenario as defined by the UNFCCC additionality tool?
- Does the project promote sustainable development?
Gold Standard certification is restricted to projects located in developing countries. For more information on Gold Standard, click here.
What is sustainable development?
Sustainable development projects are those that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (e.g., high technology projects such as solar powered water irrigation systems that support community-based agriculture in developing regions).
What is a Gold Standard-certified project?
A Gold Standard-certified project achieves GHG emission reductions through the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies while supporting sustainable development for the local community. All Gold Standard projects are rigorously tested for environmental quality by accredited third parties called Designated Operational Entities. Gold Standard certification is restricted to projects located in developing countries.
What is a Designated Operational Entity?
A Designated Operational Entity (DOE) is a third-party agency that validates a project’s results as real and measurable and ensures that long-term emission reductions have taken place. Currently there are 19 organizations worldwide accredited by the United Nations as DOEs. For a complete list, please click here. These organizations may be accredited to validate one or all of the United Nations-approved offset projects.
What is the UNFCCC?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the body that oversees the execution of the Kyoto Protocol. Although the UNFCCC has an executive board, the final decision regarding what the framework encompasses is made by all the member nations (Parties to the Agreement).
What is the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism definition of additionality?
Additionality is the industry term to state that the emission reductions associated with a project would not have occurred in the regular course of business due to at least one of the following barriers:
- Investment barrier: a financially more viable alternative to the project would have led to higher emissions
- Technological barrier: a less technically advanced alternative to the project involved lower risks or the technology employed in the project is not widespread
- Barriers due to prevailing practice: prevailing practice or existing regulatory or policy requirements would have led to implementation of a technology with higher emissions
- Other barriers: without the project activity, for another specific reason identified by the project participant, emissions would have been higher. Potential reasons include institutional barriers, limited information, managerial resources, organizational capacity, financial resources, or capacity to absorb new technologies.
All Less offsets reflect projects where all four barriers were present.
What does additionality mean in the context of a Less offset?
Less offsets meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). In addition, Less' international offsets meet the additional standards of the not-for-profit Gold Standard Foundation (GS) which require additional criteria to be met to satisfy their certification standards. These two standards (CDM and GS) ensure that Less customers are purchasing the highest quality international offsets with clearly demonstrated additionality.
What is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) program?
The CDM is one of the three flexible mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol (along with Joint Implementation and Emission Trading) used to help developed countries (Annex 1) achieve their emission reduction targets. The CDM assists in reducing global greenhouse emissions by steering finance to emerging economies (Non Annex 1) which may have otherwise chosen high-emission solutions such as fossil-fuel based electricity generation or manufacturing that does not use non-carbon capture technology. Overall, the CDM helps ensure emerging markets can employ some of the best “green” practices that exist worldwide. For more information, please click here.
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About the VER+ Standard
What is the VER+ Standard?
Less' Canadian offsets are sourced from projects that have achieved the VER+ Standard, a globally recognized and respected standard for voluntary GHG emissions reduction projects. VER+ certification follows the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism methodologies and enables projects located in developed countries—and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the Gold Standard and United Nations certification program—to meet equivalent performance standards and deliver high quality emissions reductions. The certification program is managed by TÜV SÜD, one of the leading companies providing validation and verification services for offset projects adhering to Kyoto Protocol methodologies. VER+ projects are additional
and independently validated by an accredited third party.
Why aren't Less' Canadian offsets certified under the Gold Standard?
Although climate change and carbon emissions are a global issue and emissions reduction projects provide benefit on a global basis regardless of where they are located, Less wants to provide customers the option to support local initiatives and purchase offsets from Canadian-based projects. As the Gold Standard-certification is restricted to projects located in developing countries and therefore not applicable to projects located in Canada at the present time, Less sought out the next best standard for its Canadian offsets projects: VER+ Standard certification.
VER+ is a global standard for voluntary GHG emissions reduction projects. VER+ certification follows the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism methodologies and enables projects located in developed countries—and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the Gold Standard CDM certification program—to meet equivalent performance standards and deliver high quality emissions reductions. The certification program is managed by TÜV SÜD, one of the leading companies providing validation and verification services for offset projects adhering to Kyoto Protocol methodologies. VER+ projects are additional
and independently validated by an accredited third party.
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When I fly, am I contributing to climate change?
Yes. Aircraft operations generate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Such emissions increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These additional gases enhance the greenhouse effect, which in turn causes climate change.
What is the overall effect of air travel on the Earth’s climate?
According to Environment Canada’s National Inventory Report on Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks, air travel accounts for approximately 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that by 2050, emissions from global air travel will account for 5% of the total human climate change impact. Source
What is radiative forcing?
Besides carbon dioxide emissions, aviation produces other harmful emissions or soot and condensation trail (contrails—which can help form cirrus clouds). According to experts from Imperial College London, radiative forcing is any change in the balance between radiation coming into the atmosphere (the sun’s rays) and radiation going out (infrared energy and heat). Positive radiative forcing tends to warm the surface of the Earth, and negative radiative forcing tends to cool it.
Air travel has a high positive radiative forcing component and it is for this reason that air travel is viewed as having a large impact on global warming. Specifically, the emissions released from an airplane occur high in the atmosphere (stratosphere) compared to other sources that are emitted in the lower atmosphere (troposphere). High altitude GHG emissions, along with contrails from the plane (which contain water vapour - a GHG in itself), have a large positive radiative factor, which greatly inhibits infrared radiation and heat from leaving the earth’s atmosphere.
Although the science is not conclusive, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends that a radiative forcing factor of 2.0 to 4.0 be applied against all air travel.
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Lessen My Flight
What is the Lessen My Flight program?
Lessen My Flight™ is an independently audited flight offset program for businesses and individuals interested in lessening the environmental impact of air travel.
What factors are included in the calculation of flight emissions?
Lessen My Flight multiplies the emissions factor used by the Canadian Standards Association (in kilograms of CO2e per passenger kilometre) by the distance of the flight, calculated using the longitudes and latitudes of the airports and accounting for the curvature or the earth. The figure is then multiplied by the number of trip segments (one-way or return).
Flight distances are calculated using a great circle, which charts the shortest route between two points on a sphere (such as the earth). A great circle is created by drawing a large circle all the way around the sphere with the centre of the sphere at the centre of the circle. For more information on the great circle method, please click here.
An uplift factor is applied to the great circle distance to account for stacking at airports during periods of heavy congestion. Source
Long haul and short haul flights are calculated differently, to account for short haul flights spending a greater percentage of overall flight time in takeoff or landing, where most of the emissions impact is made. The difference in calculation for short haul vs. long haul also takes into account assumptions on the ratio of freight to passengers. Source
Customers have the option to choose to offset the impacts of emitting greenhouse gases at a high altitude (called high altitude impacts or radiative forcing), multiplying their emissions footprint by a factor of 2.0, the minimum range recommended by the IPCC.
How are layovers accounted for in the Less Calculator?
Less calculates each segment of a flight independently. By doing so, we account for the significant amount of emissions generated through each take-off and landing process.
In the case of layovers, we provide two specialized features to help customers determine their emissions:
- The Multiple Destinations feature allows customers to quickly include a layover by simply adding each destination to the end of your itinerary.
- The Open Jaw feature can account for layovers as well, but is primarily designed to help customers determine their emissions in cases in which they fly into one city but return from another.
Although the calculation processes for Multiple Destination and Open Jaw are slightly different, the total emissions for an equivalent trip will be the same.
Scenario for using the Open Jaw feature:
I’m taking two separate flights in one trip with another mode of transportation in between (e.g., flight then train then flight). Can I use your calculator to determine my emissions?
Yes, this is called an Open Jaw ticket. An Open Jaw ticket is an airline ticket on which a traveler returns from a city other than the one he or she originally flew to, or wherein the final destination is not the same as the initial departure city. This type of arrangement may be necessary when commuting via car, boat or train between different aviation points. For instance, a traveler might fly from St. John’s to Montreal, commute from Montreal to Toronto by train, and fly back home to St. John's from Toronto.
Will the emissions of the whole flight be offset or only those associated with the offset purchase’s specified number of passengers?
Only the emissions associated with a purchase's specified number of passengers will be offset. For example, if the flight itinerary applies to only one flight passenger, the emissions of that single passenger will be offset. Greenhouse gas emissions per person are estimated by multiplying the average emissions factor per individual passenger kilometre by the number of kilometres travelled. To determine the number of kilometres, Less employs the Great Circle Method of determining distances.
What is the Great Circle Method?
The Great Circle Method uses the shortest distance between any two points on the surface of a sphere. Although the Earth is an oblate spheroid, we can employ the math associated to a sphere to determine the path a plane takes in the air. As such, the great circle reflects the measured distance along a path on the surface of the sphere (as opposed to going through the sphere's interior).
Click here to see an example of the Great Circle method in action.
Click here to see how distances are calculated based on the Great Circle method.
Can other greenhouse gas-producing activities be offset?
Yes. Less offers the option of purchasing offsets by volume for activities such as vehicle use, travel accommodations, conferences and general operations. Click here to purchase by the tonne.
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