Reforest is a new solution for carbon emissions

Posted on 1 February 2020

Whilst most of us want to reduce our carbon footprint, it’s difficult to completely avoid carbon emitting activities. Driving your car, taking a flight, and even your weekly grocery shop create carbon emissions. These things alone can total a large share of your overall personal footprint.

Sometimes there are good low-carbon alternatives available, such as taking the train or meeting by videoconference instead of in person. But in many cases driving or flying can be unavoidable.

Until now, the only option available to address these unavoidable carbon emissions has been to buy a carbon offset. Yet even the carbon conscious among us aren’t buying them. Despite 81% of Australians of Australians being concerned about climate change, only around 1-2% of people buy offsets when offered.

Read more on what carbon offsets are and how they fail to engage consumers here.

After reviewing the published literature and conducting interviews with airline passengers (the group of people most exposed to the option of buying carbon offsets), we’ve identified several problems with them:

  • They are hard to understand
  • Their value is very abstract and intangible
  • You don’t see any real-world response when you buy one
  • They have no impact on the underlying cause of the emissions; i.e. there is no link between your purchase and the retailer making any changes to reduce their future emissions
  • It doesn’t feel fair that you’re the one paying when the retailer is creating the emissions
  • Buying an offset is a one-off purchase with no continuity or ownership 
  • You generally don’t get any choice in type or location of the offset
  • Your purchase is invisible and isolated (is anyone else doing it?)
  • And because of all the above, it is difficult to trust that your money is doing any good

A better solution would overcome these issues and offer:

  • A tangible and visible impact on emissions
  • The ability to see the result of your action in real-time and to receive feedback
  • Choice over the type and location of your impact
  • A solution which is shared and collaborative
  • A way to influence change in the source of the emissions
  • Confidence that it has real value

So, we asked ourselves if we could create a solution to meet all those needs. Here’s how we have designed Reforest with these challenges in mind:

You want a tangible and visible solution

If you’re going to buy something you want to understand exactly what it is and how it works. It needs to be a real and visible solution for your carbon emissions.

Trees are nature’s solution to climate change. They absorb CO2 as they grow. You can see them, touch them and watch them grow. They clean the air, filter the water, replenish the soil and even stimulate rainfall. And a lot more of them are needed to restore natural habitats and halt the mass species extinctions occurring across the planet.

Reforest is a way for you to plant trees in new, high quality, biodiverse reforestation projects. You don’t need to own the land, plant or manage the trees. You receive updates about your trees when they’re planted and periodic imagery to show you they’re healthy and growing.

You want real-time feedback

When you make any purchase or donation it’s important to feel like you know exactly what you’re getting and where your money is going. If what you’re buying is impact, then you want to know exactly where and when that impact occurred.

With Reforest, you receive a personal acknowledgement from the reforestation site you have chosen that they’re preparing to plant your trees. You’ll also receive updates in your app with each milestone of the planting process. And if the site you choose has a special benefit such as providing habitat for a particular species, you’ll also hear when that species starts calling the new forest home.

It’s important that when you act on your emissions, your retailer (e.g. airline) does too. So when you use Reforest, you’re able to directly invite your retailer to match your tree planting. This gives the retailers who share your commitment the chance to visibly respond to and engage with you.

If your retailer agrees to come on board and start offering to Reforest with their customers (or perhaps they took the initiative and already offer that option), each purchase you make and Reforest with them will remove double the CO2 emissions created. If they decline, don’t worry, we’ll let you know about other companies that are more willing. Our goal is to amplify your personal action by connecting you with the companies who will match you and embrace a collaborative approach to restoration.

You want to choose where your trees are planted

Some of the best travel destinations are also the places experiencing the greatest impacts of climate change; low-lying Pacific islands are being inundated by rising sea levels; Great Barrier Reef corals are being bleached by warmer water. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a positive impact to directly help that location? If you’re flying to Cairns to see the reef, what if you could plant trees in a local project that will not only help stop coral bleaching by reducing CO2 levels, but which will also prevent damaging nutrient run-off. Or, perhaps you’d prefer to restore native forests to improve biodiversity in the region where you live.

Reforest will enable high quality regenerative projects of all shapes and sizes, and as we expand, we aim to offer a broad choice of reforestation sites, including locations that are important to you. You may even be able to visit them as part of your travel plans.

You want collaborative and shared action

Your own action feels more potent when you see how it compounds with that of others for a greater impact. You plant your trees, others plant theirs, and all those trees combined become a thriving, self-sustaining forest. It is especially powerful when you know that your action was visible to others and influenced them.

Reforest is designed so you can see your influence ripple out to engage other people as well as your retailer. You may have planted a single tree to remove the emissions from a short flight, but what if 100 other people saw your action and it motivated them to do the same? And what if your retailer responded by matching you all? Suddenly your seemingly small impact has been amplified many times over. This is how social movements work.

You want to see a change in the source of emissions

Many people would agree that buying an offset does not achieve enough. There’s no implication for the retailer, who is simply buying the offset from the carbon market and selling it to you.

This is a missed opportunity for everyone involved. It doesn’t help the retailer move towards a more sustainable business model and doesn’t give you the opportunity to influence and collaborate on meaningful change.

We want to convert your action into a compelling incentive for your retailer to reduce their future emissions. When they do, we want you to benefit by seeing your contribution to that great outcome, and your retailer to benefit by earning your loyalty by working with you. This will drive faster industry transformation. 

When you use Reforest, you invite your retailer to match the amount you have paid to plant trees. If they do, double the number of trees will be planted and your retailer will make payments over time as those trees grow. Those trees will generate carbon offsets which your retailer can use towards their carbon neutral certification.

If your retailer can reduce their future emissions (for example, by investing in renewable fuels) then the amount it costs both you and your retailer to Reforest those emissions will be less. Reforest essentially enables customer and retailer to pay a voluntary carbon fee on their transaction, but instead of the money going to the Government you’re directing it to the high quality environmental restoration project that you choose.

You want action with real value

The key incentive to use Reforest is to have a positive impact on your carbon footprint, and to feel good about that impact. The reality is that when you take personal action, we all benefit. As individuals, we all get to live on a healthier planet and pass that healthy planet to future generations. Your action also benefits the organisations that are committed to adopting low or zero carbon business models. You are creating a future demand for their climate friendly goods and services.

Reforest is designed so forward-thinking organisations can thank you for your impact which they will ultimately benefit from too. When your retailer (e.g. airline) matches your tree planting, we encourage them to offer you a tangible thank you. This could be points in their loyalty program or another kind of benefit. Other retailers may offer different thank you gestures, such as special discounts on their zero carbon goods and services.

You want a better way forward

2021-2030 is the UN Decade of Restoration. Where zero carbon options do not yet exist, we believe we need to go beyond the current ineffective options. We want to support meaningful collaboration for better outcomes; removing more carbon than was produced (carbon negative) and restoring the environment.

We are inspired by the bold ambitions of those organisations leading the way, such as Microsoft which has pledged to remove all the CO2 they have ever produced. We have designed Reforest to be a vehicle to support these kinds of restorative ambitions.

Throughout our Early Access beta program, and subsequent launch, we will continually check how effectively we are meeting our customer’s needs. We will ask for our customers’ feedback so we can improve and ensure we offer the most effective solution to unavoidable carbon emissions.

If you or your organisation would like to get involved, please get in touch.

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