Becoming Carbon Neutral

The ocean critically influences our atmosphere, and a changing climate has serious consequences for our coasts and way of life. With this in mind, the WSL pledged to become carbon neutral by the end of 2019 by offsetting events, business operations, and staff and athlete travel and also offset the 2018 calendar year, prior to making the commitment in 2019.

The WSL is offsetting its carbon footprint by investing in and supporting projects such as REDD+ (reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) and VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) certified carbon offset projects that have a focus on restoring and protecting natural ecosystems as well as supporting renewable energy development each of the WSL's regions.

From 2018 to 2019 the WSL moved to 100% nature based solutions, adding the McCloud River and Jari Pará Project to their portfolio. Nature-based solutions, or natural climate solutions, are projects that restore, protect or transform land. In this way, nature absorbs more CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.

In addition, from 2018 to 2019 the WSL identified that staff flights were the largest source of emissions in 2018 accounting for 53.1% of all emissions. With this in mind, a concerted effort was made to reduce staff travel while still providing the best event experience possible for athletes and fans and reduced staff travel emissions to 45.8% of all emissions (reducing the largest emissions source by 7.3% YOY).

Surfers above a healthy reef in Tahiti © Kirstin We all depend on healthy oceans to survive. - WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

Offset Projects for the 2019 Calendar Year

  • In North America: The McCloud River project is an Improved Forest Management project. It generates emissions reductions through sustainable practices of commercial timberlands about 20 miles southeast of Mount Shasta in Northern California. Commercial harvesting does occur on the project, but by using sustainable practices the landowners have preserved more forest and actually increase the amount of carbon stored by the property over time.
  • In Asia Pacific: The Katingan Mentaya project in Borneo is a REDD+ peat swamp forest that fights deforestation from mining and palm oil plantations. VCS and Triple Gold Certified project recognized for its positive social impacts (34 communities; 45k people) and biodiversity (5 Critically Endangered, 8 Endangered, and 31 Vulnerable species).
  • In South America the Jari Pará Project is a forest conservation project. It reduces potential greenhouse gas emissions by protecting a large swath of forest (almost twice the size of Luxembourg) that otherwise would have been destroyed. It is a REDD+ project that is at the front lines of deforestation in the Amazon today trying to stop clear-cutting practices that are causing the loss of so much rainforest today.
  • In Africa: The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust located in Kenya, which supports the Chyulu Hills REDD+ project to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation, restores biodiversity and creates alternative livelihoods.

Offset Projects for the 2018 Calendar Year

The WSL will also reduce its carbon footprint by regionalizing its operation, limiting non-essential travel and implementing policies to reduce carbon emissions at its offices.

The WSL carbon offset program is calculated and curated in partnership with STOKE (Sustainable Tourism & Outdoors Kit for Evaluation), a certification organization with standards built specifically for surf and mountain tourism operators, destinations, and affiliated events.

Some facts that propelled the WSL pledge to become carbon neutral by the end of 2019:

  • Because of increased global temperatures, the ocean has absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat in the atmosphere, which causes more frequent and intense storms and dangerously rising sea levels. (Laffoley, D., & Baxter, J. (2016). Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences.)
  • Sea level is expected to rise by 2-3 feet by the end of this century, and over 6 feet is plausible. Sea level has already risen 10 inches since 1900 due to warming oceans and melting ice. (IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers.)
  • Sea level rise will threaten over 150 million people by the end of this century. (Kopp et al., 2017, Earth's Future)
WSL_Pure_Dolphins The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth and supports life on our planet - WSL / Karen Wilson

Oceans make up over 70% of the earth's surface and are responsible for: regulating our global climate, providing us with food we depend on for survival, and cleaning the air we breathe. Our one ocean is also the world's largest storehouse for carbon with more than 80% of the carbon cycle circulating through the waves we ride.

With carbon emissions continuing to rise, our oceans are taking on more energy and heat, which results in rising sea levels and temperatures. This continual absorption of CO2 also leads to increased acidity, which combined with warming temperatures, is changing the basic composition of our ocean leading to the destruction of coral reefs. Our reefs not only provide us with some of the breaks we cherish most, but are entire ecosystems to many species that rely on them for food and protection. In addition, they serve as the primary source of protein for most coastal communities.

While business and governments play a large part in improving the health of our climate, individual actions are instrumental in creating global change. Take individual action today by making your pledge to #StopTrashingWaves and help build a healthy global climate by:


  • Biking/skating more, driving less (why: reducing your carbon footprint and use of fossil fuels makes a big difference for our planet)
  • Driving less and Carpooling more
  • Taking public transit


  • Eating local (why: because locally produced food has a much lower carbon footprint than items that are shipped across the planet)
  • Eating organic (why: because organic is healthier for our soil, our planet, and thus, our ocean)
  • Eating less meat (why: producing meat has a high environmental footprint in terms of carbon production and water and land use.)
  • Eating less dairy
  • Buying food in bulk
  • Composting food waste


  • Supporting clean energy sources - such as wind, solar, or geothermal.
  • Switching to energy efficient light bulbs and LED lights
  • Turning off electronics when not in use to save energy


  • Vote! (why: because voting for policy leaders who supporting strong climate policy helps to effect change)
  • Working to spread awareness on the climate crisis
  • Supporting sustainable companies and brands who are actively reducing their carbon emissions

Support our partners who are committed to finding solutions to reduce our climate impact.

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