We at b.a.r.e. soaps treat every dollar from your purchase as if we were a non-profit using funder money. In other words, our goal is to generate the highest impact for every dollar that we make. This mentality is no different when it comes to carbon offsetting.
Carbon offsetting can be described most simply as supporting a project that reduces or sequesters CO2 in order to balance out one's own carbon footprint. These projects typically support wind/solar power, methane capture, biomass, and reforestation. Since many projects that reduce greenhouse gases require large up-front expenditures, financing is often a significant constraint. Funds from offset sales can put clean projects in the pipeline more quickly.
We are supportive of carbon offsetting because at the end of the day, there is a positive impact. However, we are cognizant that there are drawbacks to carbon offsetting, namely that it enables companies to "get off the hook". This mentality is based on the idea that a company does not need to reduce their own emissions in order to reduce the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Instead, they can pay someone else to reduce emissions and achieve the same effect on atmospheric concentrations.
We do not view carbon offsetting as a way to forgo our responsibility when it comes to sustainability. It's not exactly a one-for-one exchange, as benefits from carbon offsetting often take years to manifest. Furthermore, carbon reduction calculations depend on how much carbon would have been emitted without the project, and there are no standard procedures for calculating either the baseline emissions or carbon reductions. Therefore, in our view it is critical to find the right project and partner when carbon offsetting.
After careful consideration of the various projects we could fund to offset our e-commerce shipments + flights to visit our non-profit partners in Uganda & India, we settled on reforestation. In addition to helping sequester CO2, reforestation helps protect and encourage biodiversity.
One of the driving forces behind our sustainability mission came from the realization that the demise and/or threat of various civilizations in the past was due to deforestation. Wood continues to be one of the most important resources throughout the world, especially in developing countries where it is still a primary energy source to make charcoal. The loss of forests has a tremendous impact because we depend on forests for our survival. Forests supply the air we breathe, provide the wood we use and watershed protection, prevent soil erosion, and of course help fight against climate change.
When looking for a reforestation project to support, we knew that we wanted the project to:
After hours of scouring, we found a partner to work with, Mossy Oak. They are a smaller social enterprise, and we felt a connection to our small business. In general, we feel that passionate people at small businesses tend to be more transparent and can do what's right (versus having to adhere to bureaucracy). Mossy Earth fulfilled all the criteria above.
Romania! Many people don't realize that the Carpathian Mountains in Romania represent the biggest unfragmented area of virgin and wild forests in Europe. These forests are home to the largest population of large carnivores including bears, wolves, lynx, as well as an extraordinary range of endemic species. Our carbon offsets funded the planting of 50 native tree species including Spruce, Mountain Elm, Maple, and European Beech.
Romania's recent Communist history had ironically helped protect the Carpathians but after the fall of the communism in the late 1980s, Romania's national forests were restituted to private owners. This opened the door to illegal logging and a democratization of hunting which has led to dramatic declines in wildlife populations. Furthermore, there has been a significant amount of illegal logging due to an increased demand for lumber. The wood in the Carpathians is of high quality due to the age and size of the trees.
There's a personal connection here as well. In 2018, founder Jessie ran the Transylvania 20k in the Bucegi Mountains, located in central Romania and a part of the Southern Carpathians. The country is still poor by European standards, and getting to the mountains was an adventure- roads filled with massive potholes and connected with make-shift bridges. But what the country lacks in infrastructure, it more than makes up with the beauty within those mountains.
For our 2020 offsets, we plan to support a reforestation project in the US.
The cost to carbon offset projects can vary significantly- we've seen costs as low as ~$1/ton of CO2 emitted and as high as $120/ton of CO2 emitted. We find that most offsets are set at $8 to $20/ton. The cost of the offset can depend on where the program is located (projects in developing countries tend to be cheaper) and even the quality of the program. As with most things in life, not all carbon offset projects are created equal.
Our reforestation carbon offsets came out to ~$56/ton of CO2. Is it on the higher end? Yes. But for us, it still feels a small price to pay for the cause and the project's transparency.