Our Carbon offsets are currently funding the Jarí Para Forest Conservation Project in the Amazon Rainforest.
Carbon offsets are surrounded by a lot of confusion right now. In the ongoing experiment to combat climate change, carbon offsets have gained popularity and controversy alike.
We have recently enrolled in a program which allows us offset the carbon emissions from your order deliveries:
But what are carbon offsets, really? How do they work, and how do we know they’re effective? This article will walk you through our offset strategy and how we selected our carbon offset projects.
Carbon offsets explained
Imagine making a mess, let’s say spilling a can of paint. But you don’t know how to clean up paint, or you just don’t want to. So instead of cleaning it yourself, you pay someone to clean up a different can of spilled paint somewhere else, or to prevent another paint can from being spilled. The paint you spilled is still there. But the number of total paint cans spilled in the world is the same as before you spilled yours. This is what carbon offsets are like for the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions we release into the atmosphere.
The good news is that this is a crude analogy. In the paint can scenario, you’d still be side-stepping spilled paint and would never see the benefit of your remote cleaning. Pulling carbon from the atmosphere, however, is different, because it’s beneficial to the entire planet, regardless of where in the world it happens.
People, businesses, and governments can calculate how much carbon they’ve emitted from things like daily life and business operations and then pay to capture or prevent emissions for that amount of CO2. Offsets are sold per metric ton of CO2, and the price range is massive, from a few dollars per metric ton to hundreds of dollars. It all depends on the size of the offset project, the technology used, and the country where it’s implemented.
Offsets are not a perfect solution—but they’re a necessary tool.
You’ve likely heard criticisms of offsets, like:
- “They only absolve people of their guilt and don’t actually curb emission-causing behavior.”
- “It’s hard to validate and quantify the impact of a carbon offset.”
- “There are ‘bad actors’ who exploit the system, creating more greenhouse gas emissions than they otherwise would have, just to make money from curbing them.”
- “There are a wide range of prices for various carbon offsets but many of them are very expensive (making them an unrealistic option) or very cheap (and can they really be doing good for such a low price?).”
Offsets are not a perfect solution—but they’re a necessary tool, especially until we develop better technology to mitigate emissions.
Why The Greene Room purchases carbon offsets
The Greene Room has adopted carbon offsets as a tactic that is part of a larger strategy:
- Reduce direct emissions as much as possible.
- Offset all remaining emissions.
To be clear, offsets are not a replacement for taking actions to reduce our carbon footprint—they are a last resort to compensate for emissions we can’t currently avoid.
Our eCommerce business operations and platform is carbon neutral. We take steps to reduce our emissions by creating green offices and being mindful of our footprint, but we also pay to offset our emissions from things like powering our offices, data centres, people, and business travel.
Our responsibility goes beyond this, though. Shop and Offset allow us to offer carbon offsets to merchants and buyers on our platform. That’s the magic of being a platform company: we can reach more than one million merchants around the globe who use Shopify and the hundreds of millions of buyers who purchase from them.
The flipside of this benefit is that our platform enables a lot of carbon emissions from order deliveries shipped all around the world.
The impact of commerce on carbon emissions
Last year, Shopify merchants shipped 1.1 billion packages that travelled over one trillion kilometers. One trillion. Think about how far that is. You probably can’t, because it’s just too big of a number. That distance would take you around the Earth 25 million times. It would take you from the sun to the farthest planet in our solar system, Neptune. And back. 100 times over.
An important note here: we’re not completely sure how far an average package travels, but we’ve chosen a conservative estimate of 1,000 kilometers per package for our calculations. Despite these long voyages, the global supply chain is so efficient now that a package travelling 2,000 kilometers, from Texas to New York, emits roughly as much carbon as driving three kilometers in an average car. But still, there’s no way to ignore what a massive distance one trillion kilometers is and how much carbon is emitted along the way.
For every package shipped, roughly one kilogram of carbon is emitted into the atmosphere. This calculation isn’t an exact science, but our data team came to this estimate based on factors like average travel distance, travel method, and package weight.
What does this mean? One kilogram of carbon is the equivalent of leaving a 43-watt lightbulb on for a day and a half. When you combine this with our scale, it’s a problem. Over one billion shipments turning on one billion light bulbs every single year.