Becoming net-zero the (far-too) easy way

In my last post, as the first step in my mission to make my household carbon neutral, I used a carbon calculator to work out a ballpark figure of our overall carbon impact. For my home of 4 people it worked out at 67 tonnes of CO2 per annum, nearly 30% above the national average of 13 tonnes per person and a whopping 235% more than the global average of around 5 tonnes per person. Not a great start!

Carbon offsetting is not just about planting trees. This project in Hondurus is creating clean cooking stoves that reduce particle emissions by 79%, carbod dioxide by 43% and metyhane 94% compared to traditional stoves.

To achieve net-zero involves significant change and this takes time. The modern world of course provides ‘a quick-fix answer’, carbon offsetting, the 21st century equivilent to popping into the confessional box, saying a couple of hail mary’s and attoning for ones sins. A swipe of the credit card, pop a few trees in the ground to relieve your soul and merrily continue in your ways. That was easy, job done, I’m now citizen green. But of course I am not

Now don’t get me wrong, carbon offsetting has its part to play. It does genuinely create sustainability benefit. What it is not is an excuse to not change and avoid taking the difficult steps to properly delivering on our own commitments to a viable planet. What it does is provide a short term solution that enables others to perform the improvements for us.

The reason why cabon offseting is not the long term solution are significant:

  • Carbon offsetting is a finite commodity
    As with all commodities as demand rises and the cost of delivering the commodity increases so too does the price of buying offsets. This of course is a good thing, as the more expensive offsetting gets, the greater imperitive we have to mend our own ways. However we also could ignore this and take the easier path where we fail to change and contine to offset leading to….
  • Offsetting creates a two tier planet
    Do we want a world where the wealthy nations simply pay poorer nations to be their angels? This is a terrible outcome because it creates a two tier planet (something that arguably already exists), where less developed nations become trapped and are unable to advance the living standards of their people because they become dependent on the carbon offsets to fund their economies.
  • The offsets are often presented in a simplistic way.
    We should really only account for what an offset delivers in the same timeframe as our emission, but that often isn’t the case and we get presented with savings that deliver over a long time period. Many offseters for example attibute a saving of up to 160 kg per tree per year. Are we really claiming a little sapling that is just poking its head above the soil is going to eat a tonne of CO2? The reality is in the first 10 years of its life a young tree absorbs around 5kg per year. That means I need to have over 11,000 trees planets per year to offset my 67 tones of CO2. That is also takes a lot of land.

Now having boldly proclaimed how carbon offsetting is not the answer, I am still going to use it as the first step in the journey, acknowledging that it will take time to make adjustments and recognising there is no delaying any longer. Having offset, thereafter it will be e a journey of continual improvement to eliminate the need to offset and properly deliver on becoming fully net-zero.

And so onto the meat of this post. Lets look at some of the offsetting options that are out there…

“Help restore the planet through a monthly subscription”

Key Details

85% goes to projects

Provides visibility of certificates. Gold standard and verified standards investments

Combination of tree planting and other projects

Subscription model based on offsettig multiples of the average persons consumption

Starts from £4.60 per month

£5.32 per tonne of CO2

Ecologi was founded by a group of enviromentalists in Bristol, UK who wanted to find a way to allow us all to contribute to solving the colossal climate change problem. Their business model came out of asking themselves the question ‘How much climate change could I fund with the money from my daily cup of coffee?’. The answer to that question was a revelation, it would be sufficient to more than cover the carbon impact of a person and they claim sufficient to scale to cutting half of the worlds emissions.

Their business model is to charge their members a monthly fee to offset their environmental impact. They provide 3 different plans at  £4.70, £9.40 and £18.80 each of which provides a differing level of offset, allow you to pick one that best fits your carbon profile and budget. They also provide family plans starting from £1410 for 2 adults and 2 children.

They invest 85% of the money they receive in a wide range of national and international projects all of which meet industry-leading carbon standards. The remaining 15% is spent on salaries, marketing and business costs.

To date they have planeted over 36 million trees and offset in execess of 1.5 million tonnes of CO2

More on Ecologi:

“Saving the Planet Starts with You”

Key Details

80% goes to projects, 10% admin and 10% fundraising and marketing

100% Verified Carbon Credits and Full Transparency. All projects certified to EU+UK ETS, Gold Standard (VER) or UN CER program

Combination of tree planting and other projects

Subscription model based on offsettig multiples of the average persons consumption

Starts from £6.99 per month

£5.59 per tonne of CO2

Carbon Neutral Britains vision is to become a leading Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in Britain to tackle the Climate Change Crisis by educating and providing voluntary carbon offsetting to all – from individual subscriptions, charities and organisations – to businesses of all sizes.

Founded in 2020, due to overwhelming support the organisation has rapidly expanded, with our new headquarters based in Central London. So far our projects have already offset over 500,000 Tonnes of CO²e and planted over 3 million Trees, helping stop climate change and providing essential forest habitats for endangered wildlife.

They invest in a broad portfolio of projects both UK and International including clean energy, habitate restoration and tree planting. They have a greater focus on UK based projects compared to the other organisations listed here and commit to 10% of their budget being spent on tree planting projects in Britain.

They provide two types of monthly subscription:

  • ‘Become Carbon Neutral’ –  £6.99 per month providing 15 tonnes  annual of CO2 offset and 20 trees planted per month
  • ‘Become Carbon Neutral Plus’ – £10.99 per month providing 20 tonnes of annual offset and 30 trees planted per month

“Systemic change starts with you”

Key Details

Not for profit US corporation. 80% goes to projects, 20% for operations costs

100% Verified Carbon Credits and Full Transparency. All projects certified to EU+UK ETS, Gold Standard (VER) or UN CER program

Form direct relationshgips with projects it funds. Not clear what standards they meet.

Subscription model based on offsettig multiples of the average persons consumption

On average $23 per month for a US citizen

Wren are a US based not for profit B-corp on a mission to help reverse the climate crisis and one that adopts a strategy of complete transparency on their business. The operate on a monthly subscription model and 80% of their subscription fees go towards projects with the remaining 20% covering their operating costs.

They have diverse range of projects that they support mostly based around tree planting and environmental improvement and restoration.

The monthly costs are worked out using their carbon calculator with the average monthly fee being around $23.

More on Wren:

“Protect the world’s most threatened habitats and species for the future”

Key Details

UK based charity

Focused on protecting habits around the globe

One off donations or monthly payments.

£15 per tonne of CO2

The World Land Trust is a UK based charity that raises money to buy and protect environmentally threatened land and help local people protect and restore their land, safeguarding biodiversity and the climate. Their patrons include Sir David Attenborough, Steve Backshall, Chris Packham and David Gower. As of 2018 they have raised more than £25 million allowing them to purchase more than 3000 km2 in over twenty different countries.

Unlike the other offsetting organisations listed above, the World Land Trust allows you to use their cabon calculator to determine the size of donation. Their cost per tonne is more expensive but this reflects that they are buying land to conserve and repair what is  already there.

What have I done?

After much research I opted to split my offsets between Ecologi and World Land trust.

Ecologi covers 53 tonnes of my house hold emissions at a cost £28.20 per month. I felt the projects Ecologi invest in were a good mix with lots of projects focused on clean energy and cutting pollution as well as the more predictable planting of trees. Their website was super friendly to use and give you a nice dashboard where you can monitor your impact.

For the remaining 14 tonnes, I donated £255 to World Land Trust sufficient to buy a hectare of land for one of their projects. What I particuarly like is that the World Land Trust have a focus on conservation. Far better to keep what we have with its mature, rich and colourful diversity than to have to re-plant virgin forests.

And there we go, on paper the Russell family are net-zero. However as I’ve already said, this is the start of our journey not the end. In my next post I’ll start to lay out the plan for the real work of changing our behaviours and priorities to directly deliver improvements.

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