The CarbonNeutral Company

By Sue Welland,
co-founder of The CarbonNeutral Company

Over 10 years ago, I co-founded this business (then known as Future Forests). We were ahead of real interest in climate change – which was tough - but idea was to make it easier for everyone to understand their personal contribution to global warming, and then to provide practical and straightforward ways to reduce those emissions. And we wanted to make the whole experience feel good, rather than getting people or companies to pay or give out of some sense of guilt.

To get things going, we worked with a small and entrepreneurial science group in Edinburgh (now the renown Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, and still associated with us) and some forestry partners. Between us we created and sold some of the first 'carbon offsets' for individuals and businesses – you could measure the CO2 you created, and then pay toward planting the number of trees that was calculated to soak up that CO2. The local environment benefited, we were tackling climate change (albeit in a small way at that point), and the ‘measure, reduce, offset’ mantra was born.

In those early days, trees were an important part of our appeal: they’re very tangible vs the invisible nature of ‘greenhouse gases’ it was easy to understand how trees absorb CO2 and put out oxygen.

Things – thankfully – have changed. ‘Thankfully’ because it takes a tree 100 years to soak up the amount of CO2 a person could produce from driving in just 2 months. In terms of offsets, you can achieve the same CO2 reduction by changing your behaviour (eg buy green electricity) and, in terms of ‘offsets’, through technology shifts (like swapping kerosene burners in India with solar panels). So, since 2002, we’ve expanded what we do considerably and work, for example, with methane capture (21 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas), energy efficiency and renewable energy like hydro and wind. We’ve also now added over 50 low CO2 producing products to our website (and there are loads more in the pipeline).