The enormity of the climate crisis can be overwhelming, and in one recent survey of Americans who recognize that humans are causing climate change, nearly a third said that they didn’t think they could personally do anything to make a difference. The largest changes, such as rebuilding the electric grid and redesigning transportation, require collective action and long-term work. But individual action also matters, and a new app is designed to help with a first step: offsetting your own emissions by supporting credible carbon-reducing projects.
“Individual carbon offsetting, we found, is one of the most effective things that you can do as an individual that really produces measurable results,” says Markus Gilles, cofounder and CEO of Klima, the Berlin-based company behind the eponymous new app. “But unfortunately, the services that are out there are still serving an early adopter community. And we felt that there’s real potential for a mass movement here.” In the U.S., a survey from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago suggests that 30% of Americans are willing to spend an extra $20 a month to fight climate change.
The app, designed for ease of use, quickly asks a few questions to estimate your carbon footprint, based on factors such as the number of flights you take each year and your diet, and then lets you choose categories of well-vetted offsets to support through a monthly subscription, such as tree-planting projects in Madagascar and Panama, solar power projects, and “clean cookstove” projects that help families in developing countries use less fuel when cooking dinner over a fire. Like Wren, a similar subscription service for carbon offsets, the startup worked to identify offsets that could have the most benefit.
When you sign up for a monthly subscription, the app gives a running tally of how much you’ve helped. “We wanted to make sure that we don’t have that experience of donating into a black box, but really showing that your money is working for you,” Gilles says. “So you see, in real time, a counter that shows you every minute how much carbon you’re offsetting. We break it down further into individual units just to make it very visceral and tangible—how many trees have been planted by the money you’ve funded, how many kilowatt-hours of solar energy. We really want to make that as tangible as possible, because we feel a big inhibitor for people to take climate action is the fact that CO2 is simply invisible, and climate change is an abstract topic in general.”
The app also makes suggestions about how to lower your own footprint, including changing your diet or the way you commute. As your footprint shrinks, your monthly subscription cost goes down as well. “Carbon offsetting has this great advantage that you can do it today,” he says. “You can become carbon neutral in an instant. But we also have to play the long game. We will also need to decarbonize our societies, and so reduction is just as important.”