The future reimagined

First Step: Carbon Offsetting – But What Comes After That?

Changing Behaviour

Carbon emissions are at an all-time high and the planet is overheating. One really important step in a turnaround is carbon offsetting, but what can humanity do beyond that? Turns out there are three levels beyond carbon offsetting – and can you imagine that sometimes being negative is actually a good thing?

Here’s a bit of physics to begin with: movement causes friction and friction produces heat. A simple truth, but right now it’s the kind of truth that pretty much determines the future of humankind. Why? Because right now people and things are moving around the globe at an amazing volume, scale and pace, and all of this movement is definitely producing a lot of heat. And tons of emissions as a by-product. It’s called global warming, and maybe you’ve been worried about it recently too.

One well-publicized quick-fix to our Earth’s overheating issues is obvious: if carbon emissions are causing too much heat let’s just offset the carbon emissions then, right? Kind of yes but according to the latest UN’s Environment Programme’s latest Emissions Gap Report, just offsetting our carbon emissions will not be enough by a long shot.

But since our current global community is dependent on movement how can we live in a way that is more in line with making our carbon footprints smaller in order to make the world cooler? We at Posti - Finland’s leading company on moving (i.e. the country’s biggest postal and logistics company), should know quite a bit about the topic so we asked the Head of Sustainability Noomi Jägerhorn to chime in on what comes next after carbon offsetting?

The Earth Overshoot Day comes up sooner every year, so merely offsetting carbon emissions will not cut it. However, even with offsetting there are a few issues: some people can’t believe that the costs for making long-haul flights carbon neutral are so inexpensive and thus just chalk it up as greenwashing. So there is still some work in explaining how carbon offsetting works, even though we already need to go above and beyond that,” says Jägerhorn as she takes out her notepad and pen to draw an upside-down pyramid with four levels. 

These four levels are, essentially, the steps towards a healthier planet and carbon offsetting (i.e. reducing carbon emissions in an amount equal to the original emissions) is just a relatively small step to take when one looks at the big picture.

“Basically the four levels to actually reducing carbon emissions are: Avoid, Reduce, Replace and Offset – the latter being important but not as impactful as, for example, reducing emissions  altogether,” Jägerhorn lists. For example, Posti is avoiding business travel in favor of online meetings and replacing fossil fuels in the logistics fleet with renewable energy sources. Basically, Posti offsets just the carbon emissions that cannot otherwise be avoided at the moment due to technological restrictions for example but is indeed committed to using less and less natural resources while still remaining operational.

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So the big idea is to not merely offset carbon emissions and live quilt-free evermore but to strive to be carbon negative instead of neutral. “Let’s become carbon negative now” is actually the slogan of Posti’s new partner and relatively new Finnish climate fund called Compensate determined to invest heavily in order to clean up Mother Earth from excess pollution – and to reduce global warming while doing so.

Posti and Compensate are making it easier for consumers to take the first step into making our planet cooler by offering the option to immediately offset the carbon emissions of any parcel sent while also learning about the second, third and fourth steps beyond  offsetting. As Compensate’s founder Antero Vartia stated, “Global warming can be stopped when climate acts become a natural part of the everyday life. It's a question of changing our attitudes, as we should all take more responsibility for our emissions”

Now take out our favorite gear for sketching and doodling, and draw out your ‘carbon negativity pyramid’, what could you avoid, reduce, replace and offset in your everyday life, starting today? If you can come up with answers that could actually work at scale and would like to help us in bringing these ideas to life, then we would love to see you working here at Posti, with others just like you!

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