Climate Heroes Wanted – Our 2021 Goals

Tim Brown, Gabe Plotkin

The world needs more Climate Heroes. The apocalyptic wildfire season from California to Australia during 2020 and the devastating Texas snowstorm in 2021 serve as deadly reminders of the encroaching threat of climate change. Clearly, we all need to step up our efforts. 

At Tradewater, our approach to fighting climate change is to collect and destroy some of the most potent greenhouse gases ever made – old refrigerants.  It’s not a source of pollution that gets a lot of attention, but one pound of old refrigerant is up to 10,900 times as potent as carbon dioxide. This stuff packs a punch, which is why we are dedicated to finding as much of it as we possibly can.  So far, we’ve collected and destroyed over 4.6 million tons worth of carbon dioxide from old refrigerants.  Yet there is so much more of it out there to find, collect, and destroy.  And it’s so important to do it now. 

The world needs more Climate Heroes.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently reported that there are huge volumes of old potent refrigerants in use around the world, despite international efforts to ban their production.  If not stopped, these refrigerants will leak, releasing up to 9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere. We are determined to find, collect, and destroy as much of these potent greenhouse gases as possible.  But we cannot do it alone. 

We need your help to save the planet.

Tradewater is fortunate that a community of supporters is emerging that will enable our important work to grow.  Since we launched our voluntary carbon offset program a year ago, 500 people have stepped up to support this work by calculating their carbon footprint, reducing the emissions they can, and offsetting the rest with our high impact carbon offset credits.  We call them Climate Heroes because without them, we would not be able to permanently prevent these harmful gases from being released into the atmosphere.   

Some people fear that one person can’t make a difference. We believe the opposite.

By the time Earth Day arrives on April 22nd, we’re asking you to help us grow our community of Climate Heroes to 1,500.  If each of you reading this blog shares it with two people who join the effort, we can get there.  And if each Climate Hero offsets 20 tons of emissions, 30,000 tons of greenhouse gases will be destroyed.  That’s the same as the emissions of about 3.4 million gallons of gas or 74 million miles driven.   

On average, individuals can address their carbon footprints for less than $25/month. Our subscription options make offsetting affordable and ensure that you are doing your part year-round for less than a cup of coffee a week. 

Some people fear that addressing climate change is too complicated and that one person can’t make a difference. Tradewater and our community of Climate Heroes believe the opposite.


Emission reductions are considered permanent if they are not reversible. In some projects, such as forestry or soil preservation, carbon offset credits are issued based upon the volume of CO2 that will be sequestered over future decades—but human actions and natural processes such as forest fires, disease, and soil tillage can disrupt those projects. When that happens, the emission reductions claimed by the project are reversed.

The destruction of halocarbon does not carry this risk. All destruction activities in Tradewater’s projects are conducted pursuant to the Montreal Protocol , which requires “a destruction process” that “results in the permanent transformation, or decomposition of all or a significant portion of such substances.” Specifically, the destruction facilities Tradewater uses must meet or exceed the recommendations of the UN Technology & Economic Assessment Panel , which approves certain technologies to destroy halocarbons, including the requirement that the technology achieve a 99.99% or higher “destruction and removal efficiency.” Simply put, this means that Tradewater’s technologies ensure that over 99.99% of the chemicals are permanently destroyed. During the destruction process, a continuous emission monitoring system is used to ensure full destruction of the ODS collected.


Some carbon offset projects necessarily rely on estimations or assumptions when calculating the emission reductions from project activities. Forestry projects, where developers make assumptions about the carbon that will be sequestered over future decades if trees are conserved, are a perfect example. Such projects sometimes result in an overestimation of the environmental benefit of the project.

Tradewater’s halocarbon projects avoid the issue of overestimation by consistently conducting extremely precise testing and measurement of the amount of refrigerant destroyed in each project.

  • Every container of ODS that Tradewater destroys is weighed by a third-party using regularly calibrated scales. The ODS is then sampled by a third-party and analyzed by an accredited refrigerant laboratory to determine its species and purity. These two steps combine to ensure that credits are issued only for the precise volume and type of refrigerant destroyed.
  • The destruction facilities that Tradewater uses continuously monitor the incineration process during destruction events to ensure that over 99.99% of the ODS is destroyed. This monitoring is mandated by regulatory protocols and is part of the verification process to which projects are subjected.
  • Tradewater accounts for the project emissions created during the collection, transport, and destruction of ODS, and the number of offsets issued is reduced by a corresponding amount. The protocols that we use also build in other reductions to account for substitute chemicals that will be used to replace the destroyed refrigerants. Tradewater publishes this information in the documentation for all its ODS destruction projects. These documents outline how the material was obtained, the project emissions calculations, the test results, and the amount and type of ODS chemicals destroyed, among other information.
  • Additionality

    It is a basic requirement of all carbon offset projects that the underlying project activities are additional. “Additional” means that the projects would not happen in the absence of a carbon market. Tradewater’s halocarbon projects simply would not happen – and the gases would be left to escape into the atmosphere – without the sale of the resulting carbon offset credits. This is because there is no mandate to collect and destroy these gases. It is still permissible to buy, sell, and use halocarbons that were produced before the ban. There are other reasons halocarbon destruction projects are additional:

    • There are no incentives or financial mechanisms to encourage halocarbon destruction. According to the International Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Program, “there is rarely funding nor incentive” to recover and destroy ozone depleting substances in storage tanks and discarded equipment. And collecting, transporting, and destroying halocarbons is time-intensive and expensive. The burden to collect and destroy these gases therefore remains prohibitive outside of carbon offset markets—meaning that if organizations like Tradewater do not do this work, nobody else will.
    • Countries are not focused on the need to collect and destroy halocarbons. The Montreal Protocol has been celebrated as a success because of its production ban. This success, however, ignores the legacy gases produced before the ban and is a blind spot for government regulators. In the U.S., for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a Vintaging Model in the 1990s to estimate the quantify of ozone depleting substances left in circulation. Based on the inputs and assumptions put into the model, the EPA predicted that no CFCs would be available for recovery beyond 2020 in the United States. But this prediction did not prove accurate. Tradewater has collected and destroyed more than 1.5 million pounds of CFCs globally in recent years and continues to identify thousands of pounds per week.
    • International carbon accounting standards do not require corporations to measure or track emissions tied to halocarbons, and refrigerants are specifically excluded from Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) commitments. These commitments derive from emissions reporting under the GHG Protocol, which requires companies to report on emissions only from new generation refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), but does not establish any obligation to report inventories or emissions of refrigerants still in use, such as CFCs and HCFCs. All these factors combine to make Tradewater’s carbon offset projects highly additional. As Giving Green, an initiative of IDinsight, concluded: “Tradewater would not exist without the offset market, so this element of additionality is clearly achieved.” The case for additionality is not so clear for some other project types, such as forestry and landfill gas carbon projects. For example, some forests are already being conserved for their beauty, or for use as parks, and generate carbon offset credits only because those conservation efforts do not yet have full formal protection in place to avoid deforestation in the future. Similarly, methane from landfills can be used to make electricity or captured as compressed natural gas, thereby creating additional revenue streams to support the activities, beyond the sale of carbon credits.