Carbon Offsetting

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.  

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Number of Miles Our Packages Traveled in 2020

What is 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.   

Carbon Offsetting

More questions you may have...

What's our view on carbon offsetting? 

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.

How does b.a.r.e. soaps choose its projects for carbon offsets?

After careful consideration of the various projects we could fund to offset our e-commerce shipments (and in years where we fly to visit our non-profit partner in 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.   

Furthermore, reforestation is unique in that if done well, it has the ability to restore ecosystem services, conserve biodiversity -- all while sequestering carbon. This is not just about increasing the number of trees planted. This is about understanding what types of trees should be planted and even in what densitities to facilitate regeneration. When nature is allowed prosper, it leads to benefits such as soil stabilization, water purification, and increased biodiversity. 

In other words, not all reforestation projects are created equal, and our #1 job is to find a partner who is aligned with our mission and who we can trust. 

What project did you support with 2020 carbon offsets?

In 2020, our packages traveled over 2 million miles that totaled to 3.09 t CO₂e. Our packages average 1.5lb and currently, the offseting accounts for packages traveling between our fulfillment office and the final destination. We ended up buying carbon credits to offset 5 t CO₂e through Pachama. These credits are supporting forest management Hudson Farm.

More about Hudson Farms:
Hudson Farm is literally in b.a.r.e. soaps’ backyard!! Last year we supported a project in Europe and this year we wanted to support a project more local so we were thrilled when we saw a forest management project miles away. 

How much did this cost us? 
A whopping $61.60. Not a lot of money at all, and note that we are actually paying above market price per tonne offset at $12.32 vs the average offset price of $3-6 per tonne. Although there’s no reason why any company shouldn’t be offsetting their shipments, it is hard to find projects that are truly carbon offsetting, adhering to the “Additionally” principle. 

Paying $61.60 to offset all of our package for 1 year really isn’t enough in our view. Our next steps are to calculate the CO₂e by our packaging (cardboard boxes, mailers, etc) via the @vaayutech platform. There’s also the electricity we use to operate, driving to and from our local soap maker to pick up soap, and even the shipping of office supplies. It’s impossible to calculate just exactly how much a business holistically emits, so we are constantly reassessing ways to minimize our carbon footprint.

What project did you support with 2019 carbon offsets?

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.  

How much is it to carbon offset?

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.

Who do you partner with for your carbon offset projects?

We currently partner with Mossy Earth. They are co-founded by two Europeans who had an interest mitigating climate change in a multi-pronged approach through reforestation that encourages rewilding. 

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). 

What's our criteria for finding a suitable Reforestation project? 

"Cost of inaction" should be clear
Carbon offsets work only if they trigger a carbon reduction that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. In other words, the money from the corporations buying the offsets has to be the reason that trees are being planted or protected. This might sound like common sense, but the industry is riddled with offset projects that would have happened regardless if someone paid for carbon offsetting purposes. 

Plant native tree species that would support biodiverse forests
This was very important to us because some reforestation projects in the past decade have unfortunately been "mono-culture" reforestation. This means that only a single species is planted, which leads to a lack of bio-diversity. Bio-diversity isn't just about having abundant wildlife. It's a critical component to developing rich soil which also helps sequester CO2 and helps prevent against soil erosion. 

Commit to replacing any trees that are lost in the first few years of planting  
Carbon offsets are only effective if they have permanance. This is actually one of the main challenges and criticisms critics have with reforestation offsetting- how does one guarantee that trees planted will remain over a prolonged period of time to sequester carbon? In this case, any trees planted that die within 3-10 years after planting will be replaced.

Full transparency in monitoring
We wanted to ourselves and our customers to be able to follow the progress of our reforestation. To do this, we would need the GPS coordinates of each and every one of our trees and ideally photos along the journey! Planting areas should therefore mapped to monitor survival rates and other ecological indicators of forest health in the long term.

Employ locals in the planting when possible
If there's anything we've learned as a socially conscious company, it's that the best way to support and empower a community is to involve them- so that we are all invested in a collective mission and to help the local economy.