Raising Our Carbon Offsetting Standards
In today's climate crisis there are only so many tangible, possible solutions often leaving us lost in the weeds of "don't use plastic straws" and "always bring your own bags," but there are a number of underutilized, scalable and effective solutions. Carbon offsetting is one of those solutions and it has an interesting place in the world.
Most people are familiar with the practice of carbon offsetting on a surface level, but likely have a limited knowledge base. Through a narrow lens, carbon offsetting can garner a bad reputation due to fears about its validity and efficacy, which can lead to a hesitancy to adopt it as a practical, sustainable solution. Because of this, businesses might look for other ways to be more eco-friendly even though carbon offsetting is a path to effective sustainability right now.
CME Group: Understanding the Carbon Offset Market, March 8, 2021.
As co-founder of EcoCart, this is something my company aims to solve. Ecocart is an ecommerce plugin that works with thousands of businesses to connect quality offsets with companies and consumers and meet sustainability demands. We understand the uncertainty surrounding offsetting so we work diligently to ensure that we support projects of the highest caliber which in turn help support the communities where they take place.
When looking at adding a project to our portfolio, we only consider rigorously vetted and verified projects. There are several major carbon standards that we look at when evaluating a potential project. Gold Standard, VERRA, Woodland Carbon, American Carbon Registry, and Climate Action Reserve are some of the top verifications that we support. Carbon standards are typically backed by reputable and environment-focused non-profits, who are capable of supervising and aiding the dozens of carbon offsetting projects they verify. For the most part, projects have to meet certain benchmarks, standards, and protocols outlined in detailed policies by the carbon standards. These benchmarks help ensure the execution and efficacy of the individual projects.
Past the various carbon standards, all projects supported by EcoCart uphold the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These goals, commonly referred to as SDGs, are considered the blueprint for a "better and more sustainable future for all." The goals focus on different challenges that everyone faces, this includes poverty, quality education, climate change, environmental degradation, clean energy, gender equality, and much more. The SDGs are a call for action for all countries to foster prosperity and a better world while protecting the planet we all share.
UN: Do you know all 17 SDGs?, April 20, 2021.
When it comes to building our project portfolio, it's also important for us to have a wide range of projects that support a variety of emission reduction and prevention schemes. We additionally contemplate the societal impact our projects have and ensure they are benefiting the communities in which they take place. EcoCart has projects that protect forest, build wind farms, provide fuel-efficient cookstoves to families in need, and so much more.
Each project supported by EcoCart works to either sequester carbon from the atmosphere, prevent it from being produced in the first place, or to reduce the amount generated. By focusing on nature-based solutions that help reduce carbon, these projects play a crucial role in combating climate change. A key facet of the upcoming COP26 is working together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences, put warning systems in place and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods, and lives. All of these goals align with the SDGs that our projects support, which further strengthens carbon offsetting and our projects as feasible solutions.
Our perspective is simply that carbon offsetting is a practical tool that can be accessible to a variety of people and businesses across a variety of industries to effectively reduce carbon emissions. A common critique we receive is something along the lines of “if online shopping is bad for the planet then just don't shop online." While this is the ideal situation, it’s also an oversimplification of the current landscape of retail and e-commerce. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it's that online shopping is here to stay. Online sales hit $791.70 billion in 2020, up 32.4% from $598.02 billion in 2019, with no expectation to slow down. Online shopping is extremely convenient and easier than traditional shopping for most consumers. Rather than pressuring them to forgo online shopping all together, we would rather work to change the system currently in place by making it more sustainable.
We started with offsetting shipping emissions since they are often not thought of when considering the carbon footprint of an item. The packaging and the goods themselves are what the consumer directly interacts with and are therefore front of mind. But shipping? Most don't give it a second thought, especially with the rise of 2-day expedited becoming the new norm.
We didn’t stop at shipping. We expanded so we’d be able to calculate carbon emissions from manufacturing and packaging to create a better opportunity to reduce the overall carbon footprint of an item.
Our goal with EcoCart is to continue educating both consumers and brands on the importance of sustainability and carbon offsetting, specifically within the e-commerce sphere. We want everyone to be more intentional and thoughtful about the impact they make while we work to mitigate those impacts where possible. We're striving for realistic and impactful change that promotes a better future for everyone. We firmly believe that both individuals and corporations should make changes that positively impact the environment, and carbon offsetting is just one way to do so.