HOW YOUR TEES PLANT TREES!
We recognise that for us to trade as a business, there's an environmental cost – and we want to cover that cost.
We've chosen to do that through Carbon Neutral's Plant-a-Tree Program which we've broken down for you in this post, along with a few FAQ and answers about carbon offsets for business.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The Plant-a-Tree program lets businesses and individuals buy trees which are planted as part of reforestation projects on degraded land in Western Australia.
Carbon calculators (like the ones in our links below) can help you to estimate the carbon emissions your individual or business activity generates, so you can either reduce, monitor and/or offset it. The Plant-a-Tree idea is that the purchased trees will grow, capture carbon in their leaves, branches, stems, bark and roots, and effectively 'offset' your negative impact.
We like Carbon Neutral, because they recognise that biodiversity is a key factor in healthy reforestation. This means no monocultures (no huge plantations of one tree), but in each planting up to 50 different species are chosen to grow together. This includes tall trees (upper storey), middle growth trees and shrubs, bushes and grasses.
It also means that when each 'tree' is purchased from Carbon Neutral, it may not equate to one tree being planted, but might actually be a bush, a shrub or a grass instead. But this isn't a dodgy greenwashing trick! When these grasses, shrubs & bushes are planted together with middle growth and upper storey trees, a healthy, strong and diverse ecosystem is supported which can regenerate the land and protect wildlife.
We've found this to work really well for us as a business- the process of buying trees is fairly simple (once you get the hang of the carbon calculations and also of keeping decent records!). We're also pretty happy to know that degraded earth in Western Australia is being transformed into lush and lively bushland!
CARBON OFFSETS, EH?
Carbon offsets can be pretty controversial. I've read journalists accusing businesses of using carbon offsets as a cheap marketing ploy to seem sustainable and look like they're reducing their carbon emissions, when they really should be redesigning their practices to be more sustainable.
But the reality is, businesses will always have an impact. Even sustainable ones! And when you've done all you can and you still want to do more, I reckon carbon offsets can be a good move. We've chosen to offset our impact by planting trees. Real trees, in a real place, that you can see with your real eyes!
WHAT ACTIVITY DOES FAIRTEES 'OFFSET'?
The business activities we've made calculations for include:
- Importation of all our organic & fair trade clothing to Australia by air
- Electricity use
- Car use
- Energy for the production of our packaging materials, office paper & swing tags (100% Australian post-consumer Recycled Paper).
HOW DOES FAIRTEES CALCULATE HOW MUCH CARBON TO OFFSET?
Truth be told, it's pretty boring! On the plus side, you do get to enjoy a couple hours punching calculator buttons. This is how we get it done:
Each year we make an estimate of how many carbon emissions our business has produced, using a few different carbon calculators collectively, including the ones found at Climate Friendly, Carbon Neutral and the Energy Consumption Calculator from Rapidtables.
It's important to note that this estimate isn't precise, as it's difficult for us to account for the exact levels of energy we've consumed. One reason is that we're office-free (home-based across a few properties) which makes separating office-use and home-use difficult. But more importantly, it takes quite a while to make all of these calculations.
For these reasons, we decided to overestimate the amount of carbon we would offset, to ensure that we totally cover our fair share of emissions, and a bit more while we're at it! This was a win-win, as it not only saved us timebut also is better for everyone.
HOW MANY TREES DOES IT TAKE TO OFFSET ONE TONNE OF CO2 EMISSIONS?
As Carbon Neutral explained to me, apparently there's no general rule which states how many trees it takes to sequester one tonne of CO2 emissions. A bunch of factors come into the equation and affect the carbon sequestered, including soil type, remnant vegetation surrounding the planting sites, rainfall, choice of species, and more.
Carbon Neutral do give out a rough estimate though- if the seedling planted is going to be a mature, tall tree, then three or four may be enough to sequester one tonne. However if it is smaller tree species and shrubs, it can take up to 15 or 20 plants to achieve the same sequestration (Carbon Neutral, 2015).
HOW MANY TREES HAVE FAIRTEES PLANTED?
- For 2013, we bought 20 trees, which was just a little over our total estimated emissions.
- For 2014, we bought 50 trees, which we estimate to cover all our emissions and more!
- For 2015, we bought 50 trees, which we again estimated to cover all our emissions and then some!
- For 2016, we bought 92 trees, woohoo!
- For the first half of 2017, we bought 108 trees! This brings our total to 320 since 2013 :)
To ensure a successful project, Carbon Neutral has to do a lot of prep work before any trees can even be planted. Land must be selected and purchased, the site must be prepared and a survey of endemic plant species must be carried out.
Once the trees and other species are planted, then the ongoing control, management and care of each planting site (eg. pest, weed and fire control) starts. Carbon Neutral's planting sites are also monitored by independent third parties, and the sites are legally protected by a 100 year Carbon Right and Carbon Covenant, which means the trees cannot be damaged or removed by landowners for 100 years. Good to know!
What does your business do to be sustainable? Got any tips for us?