Project Development Assistance

As an office firmly rooted within the academic environment of Duke University, DCOI staff are familiar and experienced with the nuanced approach required to implement a carbon offset program that reinforces institutional objectives. By definition, offset projects are implemented beyond the physical boundaries of academic institutions; yet, these programs must remain consistent with the goals of colleges and universities by providing opportunities for research development, volunteering, and community engagement. Here at Duke University, we understand the challenges academic institutions face, including the need to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders with competing priorities, working through an established procurement system, navigating a decentralized organization, and traversing hierarchical decision-making processes. While we reach beyond the institutional box to develop projects, our success comes from consolidating priorities to share our victories internally and build upon institutional structures.

DCOI is the only office in academia whose main mission includes developing offset projects, building guidance to inform better project implementation in the future, engaging with industry professionals, and addressing carbon offset market issues by piloting innovative solutions. As experts in the field we seek to publish best practice guidance and develop new project type protocols that will enable easier project implementation for colleges and universities. Beyond this we actively engage with our peer institutions as advisors, assisting in program building and identifying funding pathways.

As an institution that is experienced in building carbon offset programs, DCOI invites you to reach out to us for guidance. Below are a series of questions designed to better understand the type of offset program for your organization. You can contact DCOI by emailing


  • What has been the main motivator in pursuing offset projects to date?
  • What will be the main motivators in the future? How much are you willing to spend per offset?
  • How does your university value additional emissions reductions today, versus just meeting the agreed reductions in the future?
  • How does your university value innovation and co-benefits relative to emissions reductions?
  • Does your university desire to explore the research side of carbon offsets?
  • Is there a group of faculty and students who would benefit from innovative offset project development?
  • Is innovative offset research and development an important part of your university’s climate action plan?
  • How does having a local impact play into your university’s climate goals?
  • How does your university value these impacts despite the lack of associated market value?
  • How much risk is your university willing to take on through innovative project development?
  • How much risk can your university handle in offset purchases?


At Arizona State University, we have been exploring the role carbon offsets will play in supporting our efforts to achieve climate neutrality. The DCOI provided valuable leadership and knowledge that helped us develop our urban forestry efforts, which have resulted in planting over 350 trees so far. By working with the DCOI, we've been able to speed up our efforts and scale very quickly. 
Corey Hawkey, Assistant Director of Sustainability Practices, ASU


The DCOI has been a helpful resource as we have explored carbon offsets. We have learned from DCOI's experience and sought input on program and project ideas. Elon University is particularly interested in local offsets, and tree plantings are a natural fit for Elon, so the Urban Forestry Program was a great opportunity for Elon. DCOI's assistance led to Elon's first local carbon offset project, which was a planting project of 100 trees in Price Park in Greensboro, NC. The project was located in Greensboro based upon land availability and proximity to Elon University School of Law. Elon is interested in additional projects and location future planting projects near Elon's campus as well as international tree planting projects connected to study abroad program sites.
Elaine Durr, Director of Sustainability, Elon University