Even if you who live a relatively environmentally friendly life, with sustainable diets and low-impact travel habits, you probably could do more to counterbalance the emissions that stem from unavoidable necessities of modern life.
That’s the underlying philosophy for the creators of newly launched startup, Treepoints. “The only way to get to [carbon] zero and beyond is to couple behavior changes with active offsetting,” says Anthony Collias, one of the two co-founders. Treepoints gives users rewards points for offsetting their carbon by investing in projects that cancel out environmentally unfriendly lifestyle practices, like car and plane travel, and dairy- and meat-heavy diets. The structure of the rewards scheme is like “air miles, but for helping the planet rather than hurting it,” Collias says.
Here’s how it works: new users can sign up to one of the three subscription plans, priced according to your estimate of your carbon footprint; you can determine that figure by using a specially designed calculator on the website, powered by data from authorities like the World Bank and the World Wildlife Federation. Collias and his co-founder, Jacob Wedderburn-Day, say 85% of the revenue from the subscriptions will fund UN-certified sustainable projects around the world. Then, you’d earn reward points depending on your chosen plan, and also by referring friends and employers. If businesses sign up, and link their employee accounts, everyone under that account will earn more points.
The points can then be redeemed at a range of eco-conscious stores that have signed onto Treepoints’ “green marketplace.” Users would be able to claim discounts on products from eco-friendly brands like Patagonia; Toms; English cosmetics company, Lush; and Scottish craft beer chain Brewdog. (Treepoints is UK-based, but available for users across the world; the carbon footprint calculator is calibrated for different countries to reflect accurate emission trends in each distinct place.)
The international projects to which the subscriber funds go are verified by Gold Standard, a world-recognized carbon-offset certification program. Current projects include generating clean electricity from wind power for the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh; producing clean energy via hydroelectric power in Honduras; and in Istanbul, capturing methane waste and using it instead to power turbines for electricity. With that project, the Turkish capital is likely to save an estimated 818,841 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per year.
The founders say their business allows people who care about the climate crisis, but who don’t necessarily have the motivation or knowhow to decipher where exactly to cut emissions, to ensure they’re making a difference. And, the rewards act as an incentive. Even those who do lead highly eco-friendly lives can strive to become not just carbon neutral, but carbon positive. “[Carbon neutrality] makes an impact, but really we need the people who care to be doing over and above,” Collias says. “Behavioral change is important, but not sufficient, and shouldn’t breed complacency.”