Our Carbon Offsetting Guide

When it comes to carbon offsetting there is a lot of suspicion with regards to what actually gets done. Instead of ignoring this elephant in the room we openly address this proverbial mammal by providing an ultimate level of transparency.

Black on White: this is where we stand

It is our belief that every attempt should be made to reduce one's carbon footprint before carbon offsetting is an option, and that offsetting cannot be an excuse to continue polluting.

For individuals and businesses alike, there is always going to be a limit on how much carbon emissions can be reduced. If we can say, hand on heart, that we have done everything in our power to minimize our own carbon footprint, then carbon offsetting must be seen as the next logical solution to effectively negate our impact on the environment.

For this reason we have chosen to work exclusively with businesses in a voluntary offsetting framework.  Our focus is restoring ecosystems and wilderness across Europe, and so we only work with businesses that share the same interest at heart. We will never work with large corporations interested only in carbon offsetting for regulatory compliance purposes. 

Reducing your emissions

Our focus is on impact. 

The main goal for Mossy Earth is to restore nature and help fight climate change by planting millions of native trees. 

This also includes educating people on how to live in a more sustainable way. Find out how to significantly reduce your carbon footprint in 5 easy steps, in our downloadable guide.

How Mossy Earth does it differently

The carbon offsetting sector has come under fire from both environmentalists and consumers for its ambiguous accuracy and vague transparency. 

We wish to do away with the smoke and mirrors surrounding this sector and objectively discuss each of its critiques as well as explain how Mossy Earth does it differently. 

Native Species Reforestaion

Large carbon offsetting schemes often plant non-native, monoculture forests that overtime degrade the land, are devoid of wildlife, contribute to the acidification of soils and rivers, while posing as potential flooding and fire hazards. 

We’re sadly all too aware of this problem, and so we are committed to planting only native tree species with the goal of creating richly biodiverse forests that provide habitats for wildlife, are more fire resilient and naturally retain water to prevent flooding.

Proving Additionality & Addressing Leakage

Would projects funded by carbon offsetting have happened anyway regardless of the investment from carbon offsets? In the case of forest protection projects, would the forest have been cleared without the additional carbon offsetting funds to protect it? And even if the answer is yes, that deforestation may just shift to a new, unprotected area, in which case carbon emissions don't go down overall.

At Mossy Earth, we do not invest in protecting existing forests for carbon offsetting purposes, instead we plant trees on abandoned agricultural land that is purchased by our conservation partners in Portugal and Ireland. By planting native tree species, it is our aim to rewild these disused lands. While at our Romania project we are planting trees in areas that had previously been illegally logged but that are now in the hands of our conservation partners. 

To date, we have planted 12,000 trees that would have never been planted otherwise. What’s more, we are not only creating additional carbon sinks but we are helping to accelerate our partners’ rewilding efforts.

Accuracy

How accurately can you measure emissionas and the amount of CO2 that is sequestered by a project?

Calculating carbon emission is an area in which we seek to be completely transparent and accurate, so we’ve done our homework. We have found no absolute scientific consensus and as such have decided we will always go for the highest scientific estimate available. You can find out more in our calculations section below. With regards co2 sequestration we are currently using the best data available to us and have additionally taken the following measures:

1. Replace every tree that dies within the first 3 years
2. Plant 30% more trees than our required estimate
3. Take yearly biomass assessments and readjust our planting to meet the required sequestration rates.

As we evolve and gather more data we will refine this section further and provide more accurate modelling for our projects. 

Transparency

Where is my money being spent?  Are my trees actually planted?

In short, our aim is that you should be able to find your exact tree by going there with our GPS coordinates.

We pride ourselves on our transparency and trust, and as part of this ethos we send all our customers a photo of their tree, its GPS coordinates, and regular digital updates on their chosen project.

Paying for our sins

George Monbiot, a protagonist of rewilding and real hero of ours, advocates that carbon offsetting is used by rich societies to carry on polluting but without the guilt nor necessity to change their environmentally bad ways. “Our guilty consciences appeased, we can continue to fill up our SUVs and fly around the world without the least concern about our impact on the planet.”

We agree with this statement in the case of carbon offsetting related to regulatory compliance (large polluters forced to reduce emissions by regulation). 

We genuinely believe that if people really had the least concern for the planet then they wouldn’t offset in the first place.  In fact, many of our customers and followers are consciously looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and that carbon offsetting is just one piece of that puzzle. 

Moreover, we like so many, have never thought that because we carbon offset, we can and will fly more. And according to Britain’s National Consumer Council & Sustainable Development Commission “a positive approach to offsetting could have public resonance well beyond the CO2 offset, and would help to build awareness of the need for other measures.” 

Green Washing

Carbon Offsetting is just another form of green washing 

If referring to businesses that plant trees at arm’s length via large scale offsetting schemes of invasive monoculture forests, which do more damage than good, then yes, carbon offsetting is green washing. 

However, what if this sustainability cliche were turned on its head, and trees were planted not only to create carbon sinks but to rewild degraded areas of Europe, restore lost ecosystems and encourage native wildlife to return and thrive. That’s a great opportunity for conservation.

It's not enough

Carbon offsetting is not enough! In his book Heat, George Monbiot, states that to confine the global temperature rise within 2C to avoid an environmental catastrophe, we need a 60% cut in global climate emissions by 2030. 

We couldn’t agree more! From our point of view, once we have done everything in our power as individuals or businesses to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, carbon offsetting is the final, logical, step to leading a life that is as close to carbon neutral or even carbon negative as we can get.

Our Carbon Calculations

Emissions
When seeking to determine the extent of emissions from an activity, it is impractical to measure the mass of emissions directly. Emissions are thus calculated from a known quantity such as fuel burned, or units of electricity consumed. Besides using annual aggregate data to determine the yearly carbon offsetting packages we offer the only other calculation we make relates to travel emissions.

Combustion of fuel is a stoichiometric chemical reaction, so the mass of CO2 emissions can be directly related to fuel burn. For transportation, fuel consumption can be monitored and converted into a corresponding mass of emissions by multiplying by the appropriate emissions factor (e.g. for petrol 2.317 kgCO2/litre). The fuel efficiency of different vehicles varies markedly, so any single emissions factor is a considerable source of potential error. A crude assumption must be made as to what is an ‘average’ or ‘typical vehicle. Furthermore, even if the vehicle model and its fuel efficiency are known, real fuel burn can vary from this value measured under standard test conditions, due to environmental factors such as headwinds, urban vs. motorway driving, hilly vs. level terrain. Also, for aviation, it depends on how full the plane was both for consumption and the individual emissions of each passenger and what type of seat you took. Finally, much of the uncertainty derives from the fact that emissions at altitude can instigate a host of chemical reactions in the atmosphere, which each have global warming and cooling effects over a variety of timescales, varying from less than 1day to several hundred years.

The main point is that it is hard or nearly impossible to make a 100% precise estimate of carbon emissions. As such Mossy Earth made two decisions:
  • We always go with the highest scientific estimate we have found
  • We offset 30% more than is required
We believe that it is much better to simplify and offset a larger amount than get lost in calculations and fail to guarantee your offset. 

Our lowest annual footprint average: 16 mt CO2
Flying per hour: 0.2 mt CO2
Driving a Motorbike 100km: 0.01 mt CO2
Driving a Car 100km: 0.025 mt CO2
Driving a Van/SUV/Camper : 0.05 mt CO2

Offsetting through tree planting
Carbon sequestration capacity varies between different tree species. However, a commonly used metric is that a mature tree will offset as much as 22kg of carbon dioxide per year or more than 1mt CO2 over 40 years. We will be using this assumption to inform our planting for the next 3-5 years. 

After this period we will have enough data from out own projects to be able to accurately model the exact co2 sequestration rate for each one. This data will be fully disclosed by us on a yearly basis and compared against the modeled rates to ensure the success of the offsetting project as a whole.

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