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Carbon Offsetting for a Start-Up

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

28th September, 2021

Blue Tap has some exciting things coming up. We’re heading to Kenya to install our water purifier in schools and healthcare centres, and we’ve got a new shipment of our reusable water bottles inbound! Air travel is pretty essential for these projects but, unfortunately, it’s a messy business.

One return flight to Kenya generates nearly four times as much CO2 as each person should be emitting per year if we want to stop climate change in its tracks.

We figure, as we can’t really avoid using air travel, the least we can do is try and offset the emissions we’re responsible for. Organisations can carbon offset the quantity of CO2 that they put into the atmosphere by contributing to a project that either reduces CO2 emissions or removes CO2 from the atmosphere.

It turns out that finding the right offsetting scheme isn’t that simple - there are loads of projects, and there’s a lot of different certifications floating about so it can be hard to be sure what’s trustworthy. Nowadays, there’s often an option to offset your flights through the airline when purchasing your tickets, but the quality varies between airlines and normally they don’t provide info on what projects the offsets are done through.

A European Commission study into United Nations-sanctioned offset projects found that three quarters of projects were unlikely to have resulted in additional emissions reductions - so it really is worth finding something that you know you can trust.

Gold Standard seems to be one of the most reliable. Founded by environmental groups and NGOs including the WWF, their projects are based in developing countries and combine reducing CO2 with sustainable development. The website lets you pick the specific project, so you know where your money is going, and the ‘marketplace’ is dominated by energy efficiency projects (rather than forestry) which are preferable as they directly reduce CO2 emissions (as opposed to capturing future emissions). They also offer some fantastic resources like this offsetting guide that explains why offsetting is important (despite its limitations) and how to go about it properly.

We chose to offset with a Gold Standard Kenya Biogas Programme which provides biodigesters to individual households. Domestic biodigesters provide a way for households with livestock to reduce their dependence on polluting firewood and expensive fossil fuels. Cooking on biogas is fast and smokeless, improving family health, especially among women and children. The project stood out for us as it focuses on many of the same health and social issues that the Blue Tap water purifier seeks to address. By eliminating the need to boil water on fires to make it safe to drink, our technology improves respiratory health and saves unnecessary labour often carried out by women and children.

In fact, if we manage to achieve our goal of treating 10 billion litres of water this will stop over 700,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions! We’re even hoping that these emissions reductions could be purchased as carbon offsets in the future…

Plus, this would mean we could just, like, fly whenever we want, right? Because we’ve offset all those emissions?

That’s the risk with offsetting - that it weakens the drive to minimise polluting behaviours. We still need to drastically reduce our emissions as well as invest in projects that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. It can’t be one or the other.

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