What Does Carbon Offsetting Mean?
The following example, which we’ve borrowed from Shopify, is useful for understanding how carbon reduction and carbon offsetting works.
Imagine making a mess, let’s say spilling a can of paint. But you don’t know how to clean up paint, or you just don’t want to. So instead of cleaning it yourself, you pay someone to clean up a different can of spilled paint somewhere else, or to prevent another paint can from being spilled. The paint you spilled is still there. But the number of total paint cans spilled in the world is the same as before you spilled yours. This is what carbon offsets are like for the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions we release into the atmosphere.
The good news is that this is a crude analogy. In the paint can scenario, you’d still be side-stepping spilled paint and would never see the benefit of your remote cleaning. Pulling carbon from the atmosphere, however, is different, because it’s beneficial to the entire planet, regardless of where in the world it happens.
People, businesses, and governments can calculate how much carbon they’ve emitted from things like daily life and business operations and then pay to capture or prevent emissions for that amount of CO2. Offsets are sold per metric ton of CO2, and the price range is massive, from a few dollars per metric ton to hundreds of dollars. It all depends on the size of the offset project, the technology used, and the country where it’s implemented.
Our pathway to Net Zero includes two main steps:
- Reducing our own existing footprint (i.e. reducing the amount of paint we spill), and then
- Purchasing offsets (i.e. paying someone else to clean up a can of paint equivalent in size to the one we spilt)
Reducing Our Own Footprint
Our first priority in moving towards Net Zero is to find ways to reduce the size of our existing footprint. Tangible examples of actions Urban Leaf took in 2021 to reduce our carbon footprint included:
- Packaging Reductions
- Shipping Efficiency Optimization
- Low-impact Materials Choices
Some of the initiatives we will be pursuing in 2022 are expected to include:
- Further Domestication of our Supply Chain
- Packaging Reductions
- Alternative Materials Explorations
A Pathway To Net Negative
After all sourcing and optimization related reductions have been implemented, we are left with an estimated Scope 1, 2 and 3 footprint of 40.2 metric tons. As outlined in our initial release on the topic, we are:
- Reducing our footprint from 40.2 tonnes CO2eq to 0 tonnes CO2eq via offsets for the year 2021, and
- In 2022 we will purchase double the amount of offsets we need to offset our own footprint. In other words, we are both paying for the clean up of the paint we split, AND paying the same amount again to have someone elses' spilt paint cleaned up.
Although we wish it weren't required, our 'Net Negative' approach (cleaning up 2x our own mess) is an important one because:
- It positively aligns our growth with environmental remediation. The larger we get, the cleaner the planet gets.
- The vast majority of corporations are, as of today, failing to do their own share of cleanup. Someone else therefore has to pick up the slack.
Obviously the 2022 figures shown below are still estimates at this stage, but this chart summarizes our pathway to our planned Net Negative position.
Our Approach To Offsets
Just as there are many ways to clean up paint, there are also many ways to remove carbon from our atmosphere. As you may already know, Urban Leaf exists in order to help foster a more sustainable food system. As a system, ‘food and agriculture’ represents the #1 source globally of
- land clearing,
- fresh water use,
- species extinction, and
- is also a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and hence climate change.
The uniting belief that unifies our entire company is that the sustainability of our food system represents one of, if not the, biggest challenges that our generation is facing.
We hope you will be unsurprised, therefore, that we have elected to support carbon offset initiatives that help humanity build a more sustainable food system. For this reason, we have decided to allocate our 2021 carbon offset purchases into Regenerative Agriculture.
What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative Agriculture is an approach to farming and soil health that seeks to sequester carbon into our soil rather than release it (as industrial farming does).
Regenerative Agriculture supports healthier soil, healthier plants, healthier humans, and healthier ecosystems. It offers the most holistic solution to fixing both our atmosphere and food system that we are aware of. If you’re interested in learning more about Regenerative Agriculture we recommend ‘Kiss The Ground’ - either the book, or Netflix documentary.
We have split our 2021 carbon offset purchases across two different marketplaces:
- Nori (nori.com)
- Agreena (agreena.com)
Urban Leaf is a tiny company, and we aren't going to fix our food system alone. It is our hope, however, that we can set an example which other larger peers and food industry players will eventually follow.
As always, your comments, feedback and questions are welcomed and appreciated. If you're interested in learning more about the backstory to this post, we recommend:
- Part 1 - Becoming The World's First Carbon Negative Gardening Company
- Part 2 - Urban Leaf's 2021 Carbon Footprint Review