Carbon Offsetting: Good News or Good Excuse?
Carbon. A word that once may have solely lived in our secondary school periodic table of elements, has now rightly become one of the biggest buzzwords of the 21st Century. Whilst the issues surrounding CO2 emissions are nothing new to many people, businesses are now talking up what they can do to help. So much so, that we often see some of the world’s worst polluters announcing that they’ve “saved the day” by planting some trees and have started to offset their emissions. Whilst it’s better than nothing, it’s not a ‘get out of jail free’ card to ignore the systemic change that is needed. Saying all that, we have an announcement: Homethings is now carbon offsetting. And here’s why.
First off, what is carbon offsetting? Journalist, John Vidal, describes carbon offsetting as “calculating emissions and then purchasing equivalent ‘credits’ from projects that prevent or remove the emissions of an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases elsewhere.” In simple talk, it’s working out your carbon footprint and supporting projects that aim to meaningfully compensate your emissions by reducing CO2 in the atmosphere.
However, we think this misses something crucial – which is the importance of actually reducing emissions as well as offsetting the rest.
Like many things in life, carbon offsetting isn’t perfect. Greenwashing is a good place to start. When a company paints a picture of themselves being “carbon positive” or “carbon neutral”, it sounds like job done. Right? Not exactly. We need to remember that businesses will still be emitting CO2 into the atmosphere – and whilst that is an unavoidable reality, offsetting doesn’t solve that. It’s why, we believe, companies must look into drastically reducing their emissions too.
And offsetting projects don’t always do what they say on the tin. Take planting trees for example. On the surface, it looks great, but trees can take as many as 20 years to capture the amount of CO2 that a carbon-offset scheme promises. And what happens to biodiversity if acres and acres of the same tree is planted? (Biodiversity doesn’t happen, if anyone is wondering the answer to that question). We think protecting existing forests from deforestation is a much better approach.
Saying all this, perfection shouldn’t get in the way of ‘good’, or at least ‘better’, which is why we’re doing something rather than nothing. Especially as we have all got ourselves into such a mess that we desperately need to be removing CO2 from the atmosphere to have any hope of meeting the Paris agreements.
So, what have Homethings done? We’ve measured our CO2 emissions, and realised there’s work to be done. We’ve identified things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint (like reducing the emissions related to some of our products by using different materials, and shortening our supply chain - exciting times ahead, watch this space). We’ve calculated the emissions related to our products (their production, transport to us and then transport to you) and our employees, by looking at the UK average per person (who produced a whopping 8.34 tonnes in 2017). We now offset both for our employees and the emissions related to every product sold. We’ve also added on a bit more, not to allow the Homethings team a guilt-free Uber instead of a cycle every so often, but because accurately calculating your emissions is hard and we want to make sure we are doing our bit by covering our emissions – and some.
To do so, we’ve partnered with Inhabit to help us make an immediate positive impact on the environment through offsetting. We chose to work with them as we trust their view on offsetting and they provide help to our team in reducing our emissions.
The project we’re currently supporting through Inhabit is the Zorlu wind project. It’s a Gold Standard-approved Renewable Energy Supply project, it’s demonstrated its additionality via the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (see this great article on the importance of additionality and what to look out for when offsetting), and it has proven to make a net-positive contribution to the economic, environmental and social welfare of the local population. They are also working on bringing new projects online which we are looking forward to supporting too.
And as we said earlier, we are also working hard to reduce our emissions. Carbon offsetting is all well and good, but reducing your carbon footprint in the first place is the best way forward. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that we mentioned we’ve got some really exciting things up our sleeve to achieve this so stay tuned on what’s to come. We continue to work towards lowering our emissions whilst providing you with great products that not only lower your own emissions but that also mean you can get rid of all that single-use plastic under your sink. The products will still clean pretty darn well too, don’t worry about that.
Our ears (and inboxes) are always open for a chat about carbon offsetting, our company impact and to any thoughts on anything we’ve written in this wee blog post. So let’s push forward, continue to learn and do better – for a tidy home + a tidy planet.