Carbon Offset: Beyond the Environmental Footprint
Carbon Neutrality: The Biggest Eco Buzzword
On 20 February 2021, on his first day in office, President Joe Biden officially re-joined the Paris Agreement under which 197 countries have committed to actively and significantly reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission every five years. The Biden administration has put forth a 2 trillion-dollar plan to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050. This is a major step in the right direction especially after the past four years during which Donald Trump undid much of the Obama administration’s progress and hard work towards addressing climate change. “All of us, and particularly those of us that represent the world’s largest economies, we have to step up.” Said President Biden at the Earth Day Climate Summit on 22 April this year.
Carbon Neutrality has been a buzzword in sustainability for several years. Apart from respective countries and their commitments, we have seen more and more companies and corporations setting ambitious goals to diminish their carbon footprints too. We have seen an increasing number of sustainable brands who have successfully offset their emissions like:
- Allbirds, who also label their sustainable sneakers with their individual carbon footprint, imitating calories on produce.
- Level 99 uses organic cotton to create carbon neutral jeans and supports offset projects in reforestation, renewable energy and gas reduction.
- Cotopaxi contributes to various offset projects and transitioned to more sustainable materials like recycled polyester and other responsible materials.
- Other brands like Pact offer carbon offsets on their organic cotton products shipping shipping to reduce consumer’s carbon footprints
- Amongst their many environmental and social commitments, Organic Basics has a low impact website which uses up to 70% less data transfers and saves emissions on energy.
- Two Days Off was amongst the first fashion brands to be Climate Neutral Certified in 2020.
- Mate the Label has taken all the necessary steps to reduce their impact and will officially be Climate Neutral certified as of 2021
Even major companies like Apple have put forth plans to become carbon neutral throughout their entire supply chain and beyond. "We are firmly committed to helping our suppliers become carbon neutral by 2030 and are thrilled that companies who've joined us span industries and countries around the world…” said Lisa Jackson, vice president for Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple, affirming the collective efforts across the world.
How is Carbon Neutrality Achieved?
Achieving carbon neutrality requires the measuring and calculating of GHG emissions and then decreasing those emissions through efficient internal practices and committing to external carbon offset projects. Such projects receive funding from initiatives like SimpliZero, which offer carbon solutions to companies, corporations and even individuals enabling them to achieve net zero emissions. This has made it possible for brands like Terra Thread to provide conscious consumers with carbon neutral products like Fairtrade organic cotton backpacks for college and everyday use, organic canvas cotton tote bags and eco-friendly gym, and duffel bags for travel. Terra Thread achieved full carbon neutrality in 2020, when our parent company Gallant International Inc took the necessary steps and started supporting renewable energy and reforestation projects in India to offset all GHG emissions.
Terra Thread recently reached a carbon milestone! 10 tons of carbon emissions offset.
There are different types of Carbon offset projects to compensate for unavoidable emissions. Such projects include:
- Renewable Energy: These projects generate power from renewable sources like sunlight and wind to replace the use of fossil fuels.
- Efficient Energy: By implementing efficient infrastructure to avoid excessive use of electric power and consequently reduce the use of fossil fuels.
- Carbon Sequestering: Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by supporting the capturing and storing of carbon emissions through methods like reforestation and promoting soil health.
Carbon Offset Projects: Environmental, Social & Economic Benefits
The concept of carbon offsets has been in use since the late 70’s when it formed part of the United States’ Clean Air Act. When carbon offset projects were originally developed, they were intended to do more than just reduce carbon footprints. These projects are designed to benefit the communities who live in the surrounding areas of its location. Afterall, true sustainability can only be achieved if environmental, social, and economic principles have all been accounted for. Carbon offset projects are usually created with social and environmental policies in place to ensure that they are not simply moving the problems from one place to another, but rather that they are actively contributing to the sustainable development of the given project’s location. These projects are virtually always asked to comply with certain legal requirements which are in place to protect and advance local communities and the natural environmental. This is an important aspect to consider when choosing or developing an offset project, since there are some which if executed badly, could have harmful impacts on local communities and the planet. With the right procedures in place, you can find carbon neutral products like Terra Thread’s eco-friendly backpacks and bags, which put people and the planet first every step of the way.
Collaborating with Locals
To safeguard and advance the wellbeing of locals, carbon offset projects are often subjected to consultations with local representatives and stakeholders who represent the interests of the community. This is an important step in understanding the needs of the people who live there and who will ultimately be affected by the implementation of such a project. Terra Thread supports reforestation projects where inhabitants are historically and intricately linked to the area’s heritage, lifestyle and natural fauna and flora. The project collaborates with farmers and communities that own plots of degraded land, many of which have been barren and unusable for farming for generations. The majority participants in the project are local small-scale and marginal farmers who live below the poverty line, mostly with no consistent income. The reforestation project is providing these communities with the necessary funding, and technical guidance to repair and maintain the health of the soil which subsequently promotes biodiversity and carbon sequestering. If done correctly, offset projects can offer incredible opportunity for sustainable growth and development by collaborating with locals and working with them to best implement projects in the given area.
Reliable and good carbon offset projects are verified and certified by a third-party standard to ensure that the project does not have negative social or environmental effects on local communities and surrounding areas. Many such standards require that offset projects do more than just address GHG emissions. Projects are required to implement strategic and continuous sustainable development schemes which must benefit the local communities. Terra Thread supports a solar energy project in Rajasthan, India which is verified by the Gold Standard, a higher standard for climate security and sustainable development. This project generates solar power which replaces coal fired thermal power in the state energy grid with renewable energy. Developed as per the Gold Standard, the project is designed with the following sustainable development factors in place:
- Social Well-Being: The project provides green jobs and brings experts in sustainable development to the areas which positively effects the economy of communities both directly and indirectly.
- Economic Well-Being: The project offers temporary and permanent green jobs to locals with the implementation and maintenance of the project. As the power supply of the area improves, it also brings more opportunities and work to the area.
- Environmental Well-Being: The project generates solar energy which has no GHG emissions and replaces the use of fossil fuels while also supporting cleaner air, water, and soil in the area.
- Technological Well-Being: The successful implementation of solar technology inevitably leads to further development and investments in the project or similar initiatives. This stimulates development and progress in the way of renewable energy and tech.
Additionally, the project developers support other initiatives which invest directly in the local communities like funding local schools and providing them with improved infrastructure and amenities.
Carbon offset projects can create tangible change when sustainable development and the advancement of local people is an integrated part of the program. When choosing to participate in such a program, it is important to consider the certifications and verifying standards associated with any given project to ensure that they have sufficiently incorporated social, economic, and environmental benefits for the locals and the natural environment. Through proper research, commitment and collaboration with locals, carbon offset projects have the ability to do so much more than sequester and capture GHG emissions. These projects can create the foundation for communities to thrive, develop and advance in a sustainable manner.