Springload and carbon offsetting

Clare Everett, 22 September 2016

What on earth is carbon offsetting? This was my first thought when I was asked to offset our company's carbon emissions. Yikes! Thrown in at the deep end. After asking many questions I realised it was quite simple: You work out how many tonnes of carbon your business has created, and then you fund ventures like wind farms that create sustainable energy, or planting trees that eat our carbon. By investing in these projects we balance things out.

Doing what’s right for everyone

We’ve been offsetting our carbon emissions for eight years now. We do it because we don’t want the work that we do – which we care so much about – to negatively impact the environment. And less carbon = a healthier planet. Reducing our carbon footprint matters both to us and our clients. More and more people specifically ask us to show our commitment to sustainability before choosing to work with us.

You don’t have to go it alone

Without a doubt, your best ally in the quest to offset carbon is a service provider. We work with Carbon South. Bruce Scott, who runs Carbon South, is great. He makes the process less scary. Each year we work with Bruce to calculate how much carbon we’ve released. We work it out in line with the financial year – it makes collecting the data easier. I send Bruce the data, he does the hard maths and then we purchase carbon credits through him.

We really like the type of projects we can purchase carbon credits for through Carbon South – currently we’re supporting rebuilding forests in the South Island.

The importance of keeping good records

How do you know how much carbon to offset? Once you get your systems in place, it's a fairly easy process – the biggest thing is keeping on top of collecting data throughout the year. You’re asked to measure a few things, like:

  • Electricity usage

  • Travel data (flights, taxis, company cars, fuel)

  • Waste to landfill (total weight)

For electricity usage, we use our power bills. Simple.

For travel data, we keep track of our travel records and expenses. One piece of advice: always record whether a flight is one-way or return as you enter your expenses into your accounting system – for every flight. Otherwise, you have to go back to try and work it out. This will save you so much time!

For waste to landfill, I literally weighed a bin bag at the end of a work day – then added a bit for luck. I use that as the base measurement for our average daily waste and calculate how many bin bags we used during the year (and I add a few for spring cleans). Done!

And if all else fails, Carbon South are there to help. Bruce is always happy to help when I am not sure how to get from ‘the data I have’ to ‘the data he needs’.

The price you’re happy to pay

Offsetting your carbon emissions does come at a cost – but it’s far less than the cost to the planet. Our company has grown from 11 people to 31 since we started offsetting, but our offsetting expenses haven’t tripled – they’ve stayed consistently around the $3,000 mark, which is about 20 tonnes of carbon plus admin fees. Of course, this could be a testament to how carbon efficient we’ve become.

Releasing carbon is a reality

Going through this process makes you ask tough questions about your business – questions about where your energy expenses come from and the energy efficiency of the products you buy.

It’s a balancing act. To run a successful business you do need to release carbon. At a very basic level – we build websites that run on computers. We need electricity to power those computers.

We do sometimes work remotely with clients and colleagues. We’ve stepped up our video conferencing facilities to connect with people, particularly Thibaud, who joins our team meetings from Finland each week.

Sometimes you need to talk to your clients face-to-face to get the best results. It’s an important part of the process. Some things can be done via technology, but sometimes we need to get on a plane.

Ultimately we do our best to eliminate any wastefulness from the way we work – we don't produce any carbon thoughtlessly. Then we offset the carbon we do create.

Thinking about this stuff is part of who we are

Springload has always been conscious of sustainability. We hate waste. We like recycling. This year we added a compost bin for organic waste. I’ve been surprised how much we’ve used it! These things show our team that we care about the environment, and that we’re a nice company to work for.

And you know what? Offsetting a whole company’s worth of carbon emissions feels GOOD! It’s a very heartwarming thing to do.