I had been flown to Nigeria to deliver a keynote speech. One line on my flight itinerary grabbed my eye: it told me that my share of the flight’s CO2 emissions was 3 tonnes.
That sounded HUGE. So I decided to research how much CO2 one tree can process and then made a bunch of wild – but I think reasonable – assumptions.
Come with me and check them out:
Part 1 – The Idea
One minute of Research:
“One tree can absorb as much as 21kg of carbon dioxide per year and can sequester 1 tonne of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 44 years old.” – Research image below.
Note: Because I changed from imperial to metric measurements (pounds to kg and ton to tonne), the time required lengthened a bit.
Assuming it only gets to 10 years old before somebody cuts it down, and assuming that a tree absorbs 80% less in its first 10 years of growth (from sapling to tree) than it would when it was fully mature, I calculated that I’d need to plant 18 trees to absorb 1 tonne of CO2 emissions (see my calculation in the picture).
So to absorb 3 tonnes of emissions, I’d need to plant 54 trees.
On B1G1.com I went to the Project Listing and typed the word “tree” into the keyword search box. A bunch of projects popped up. I found a group who plant trees in Kenya for US$0.40 a tree (The Mango Tree Orphan Support Trust).
So for US$21.60, I effectively planted 54 trees and created 54 impacts. But it’s MORE than offsetting carbon — those 54 trees also help produce fruit that produces income for people and then that ripples out too to create a bunch of positive change.
I’ve seen things online saying you can buy carbon credits for as low as 20 cents a tonne. But I don’t know who they are or where the money goes. Maybe I could have saved $21. But that’s not the point.
So now I can carbon offset with B1G1. But there’s more ……
Part 2 – B1G1 projects you can consider PLUS an idea: the Impact Bundle
Here are 3 projects on the B1G1 platform to consider:
Simply search for projects on the B1G1 platform under the following keywords:
As I mentioned earlier I did plant some mango trees in Kenya for that flight to Nigeria. I think planting trees is an awesome one, and needs to be part of any offsetting program, as the world desperately needs reforesting. And when a tree-planting project has additional benefits like income-generation from fruit-bearing trees being planted, then not only does that have a secondary benefit, but it also means the tree might be cared for beyond the 10 years in my calculations above.
As a reminder, my flight to Nigeria burdened the planet with 3 tonnes of CO2 and my 54 mango trees will sort that out and it cost me US$21.60.
Keyword: solar cooker
There’s a project in India providing solar cookers to families. This means they don’t have to spend on firewood and can spend more on food and other necessities. Plus they don’t burn the wood.
Here’s the impact:
“If we assume that there are 1.5 million operating solar cookers globally and that each one cooks an average of 1 meal per day for 3 people, this results in an emission reduction of approximately 690 million kg (equivalent) of CO2 per year (Grupp and Wentzel, 2002).” (source)
In smaller numbers, that’s 1.26kg of CO2 per cooker per day.
The B1G1 project by the Bombay Mothers & Children Society costs US 14 cents per day of access to a solar cooker (the entire cooker is US$100). If that saves 1.26kg of CO2, then that equates to US$140 per tonne of CO2. For my flight, I’d have to pay US$420. The equivalent of buying 4.2 entire solar cookers.
You can also offset carbon with the Rescuing Leftover Cuisine project in the USA as well. They’ve got stats on their carbon emission reduction too. Each pound of food rescued translates to 0.375 lbs (170g) of carbon emission that is not emitted because that food did not go to a landfill where it would have emitted methane gases as it decomposes. The project explains that methane gases are thirty times worse than carbon dioxide, and food waste is the third-largest polluter measured by carbon emissions because of this. This project also uses the food they recover to feed the hungry and homeless.
While I think the project is great, the numbers don’t make much sense for what I am trying to do. That’s because with this project it’s US$2.97 to offset 1 pound of CO2. That’s 453 grams of CO2. So to offset my 3-tonne flight (3000kg of CO2), I would need to fund US$19,669 using this project. Yeah, that’s not really going to work for me right now.
The Impact Bundle idea
But what if we look at this a bit differently?
Sure, planting mango trees is a cheaper option, but what about creating a holistic bundle of impacts that multiply the benefits? Let’s call it the Impact Bundle.
Planting the trees takes the my flights’ CO2 out of the atmosphere and stores the carbon in the trees. My calculation assumed the tree would be cut down after 10 years.
The good thing about supporting the solar cooker project is that in conjunction with planting trees, we’re reducing the need to cut them down. Now we’re talking about cooking food. But wasted food also causes a problem.
So perhaps we can also support the cuisine rescue project to stop wasting the food we end up solar cooking as well, so it doesn’t turn to methane.
And if you like, add in a project in Cambodia or Ukraine where kids grow their own vegetables and increase the proportion of veggies on their plates, reducing the impact of meat, or support a farmer to set up and run a bee-keeping business that helps pollinate the fruit trees, and now you’re creating a true Impact Bundle.
Here’s an example [costs of impacts included for you, I wouldn’t include that in an announcement]:
Every time Tim flies, he creates a Triple Offset of the carbon emissions from his flights and more through the following B1G1 Impact Bundle:
We planted 162 mango trees in Kenya capable of absorbing 3 times Tim’s share of carbon emissions for his flights for the entire trip. [US$64.80]
We provided 80 days of access to a solar cooker to a family in India. [$11.20]
We helped feed the hungry in the USA with 1.2kg of food while reducing methane emissions from food waste equivalent to 1lb of CO2 emissions. [$2.97]
We supported a family in Cambodia for the next 12 months with seeds and farming support to help feed their families and provide income through vegetable farming. [$10.80]
We gave a year of support to a farmer to run a bee-keeping business in Kenya. [$10.00]
Total cost: US$99.77.
Total impact: a little bit of saving the world, and positively impacting lives along the way.
And given that my clients pay for my business flights, that’s not much of a price to pay to be a superhero (superheroes eventually save the world after several sequels, so even they have to do it one flight at a time). And the planet needs us to be superheroes right now.
Part 3 – Why use B1G1 over other programs to offset your footprint?
If you’d like to calculate your carbon footprint or just work out what the CO2 equivalent emissions are for a single activity or journey, then . It includes a bunch of links to calculators as well as discussing some rationale to consider. Once you calculate it, you’ll want to offset it.
So …. what are the alternatives to B1G1?
United Nations vs B1G1
One of those calculators was on a United Nations page where they also had projects which you could offset your emissions… and get a certificate! YIPPEE!
When I looked through the projects I found one where I can offset my CO2 footprint for US$0.28 per tonne by supporting a hydroelectric dam project in Peru. That would mean for my 3-tonne flight to Nigeria, I could have offset that for US$0.84. Awesome!
Some tiny drawbacks though. First, the minimum bank transfer amount is US$1200. Less awesome.
And a more important one: I fundamentally don’t understand how I’m making any difference at all, or what my money is being used for.
That’s because the dam was built in 1974. And they’re arguing that it’s good for the environment because they’re selling the hydroelectricity back to the government and keep coal-fired plants closed. Great, except I just can’t see what new good I’m doing, and I can’t just send them my 84 cents.
For me, that’s where B1G1 has a huge advantage.
You see, B1G1 aggregates all micro-giving payments by all members who gave to a particular project that month and sends the worthy cause a chunkier single payment for that month… and then the people running the project DO SOMETHING NEW with it.
I’m not too keen to pay some factory or industrial project to reduce their emissions when they have already installed some environmentally friendlier instrument to reduce their emissions.
I struggle with helping a factory do the right thing after they’ve already done it years ago. I’m glad that they are doing the right thing, but they make lots more money than me. So why am I paying for something they should rightfully be doing anyway?
I get that we are positively supporting those factories who choose to do it so perhaps others follow suit, but it doesn’t quite sit well with me. For a start, it’s already been installed. Rather than paying down some factory’s expenses, I want to make a new positive impact that makes an additional positive change now because I choose to do something now.
Part 4 – Politics and the Triple Offset
It seems to me that governments should be enforcing industries to be doing the right thing. The challenge is of course that industries help some governments get into power and the governments then acquiesce to their requests to not do the right thing so they – those ‘generous’ industries can make even more money.
I have a ‘thing’ (some people call it a high horse) about airlines getting us to pay for stuff that they should be paying for. I’m getting on that horse right now. Stand by ……
Airlines should offset their CO2 and not lump it on only the climate-conscious passengers. Their business model produces huge CO2 emissions. While we are users they are emitting all the time.
The carbon tax is supposed to get them stepping up and owning their contribution. While of course, they would simply increase their fares, that would reduce some people flying and instead seek other options. Great. The point is to get industries to offset themselves, not pass accountability down the supply chain to the end-user. Fare increases, yes. Accountability avoidance, no.
Well, it turns out that change is coming. By 2021, airlines that fly internationally will have to offset any extra emissions under a UN agreement (called the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, agreed on in 2018 in Montreal, Canada ()).
In the meantime, I’m also beginning to think that if we merely cancel out our contribution to emissions, we only really fly climate-neutral.
Don’t aim to be climate-neutral. Be climate-positive.
Here’s a question: Do we want to be a neutral force in the world or a positive one?
If positive, maybe we should plant more than the number of trees that requires us to just neutralise our carbon footprint. That would mean that every time we fly we’re not just eliminating our contribution to the problem, but we actively become part of the solution. So when we fly, we’re helping the planet.
The Triple Offset idea.
Taking that one step further is what I call the triple offset. Here the first offset neutralises your impact. The second offset actively makes the planet better for you having flown. (Sort of. It does mean that because you flew, you and another passenger had their impacts offset.)
And the third offset is to offset the travel of the politician who is doing little to use their substantial influence in government to tackle the situation with the urgency it requires.
Paying that third offset every time will hopefully annoy people enough to shift them to eventually write to their politicians.
Governments can make massive nation-wide decisions that have enormous reach and legacy-defining impacts. Businesses can lead and make a huge impact, but government enforces and enshrines decisions into law.
If they don’t, then we have voters who can change governments’ minds when the voters get uncomfortable or altruistic enough to take action and write a letter or vote. That sometimes takes time. More of that another time perhaps. For now, aim for a triple offset.
In the triple offset world, my 3 tonnes of CO2 emissions for my flights to Nigeria and back would cost me US$64.80 and 162 mango trees would be planted.
It’s amazing how regularly planting 162 mango trees can save the world. And it’s so easy with B1G1. That’s another reason why, together with thousands of other businesses, I signed up my business as a B1G1 member. I want my business to be a business for good, and B1G1 makes it easy for us to express and live our values through regular, small, simple-to-understand positive actions that impact lives and changes the world.
Man goes by plane, mangoes save the world… one small impact at a time…
And it is time.
Let’s see the superhero in you do their thing now too, please.
Regularly triple offset with an Impact Bundle through B1G1, or some other way if you choose, but be a superhero and help us save the world.