Our Carbon Negative Journey
We offset double our emissions (480gCO2e) for every pack of Lazy Coconuts detergent strips based on our extensive cradle to customer emissions calculations. That's less than 13x the emissions of leading concentrated liquid detergents based on transportation alone.
But where do these numbers come from? What do they mean in the context of other products? Let's explore.
When we started researching how to go carbon neutral in early 2020, we were surprised by the complexity of the process and we want to share what we've learned with you. The basics are simple—when you add up all of a company's carbon emitting activities and carbon absorbing activities, they should equal zero—but calculating cradle to customer emissions for a product is not simple. It requires comprehensive research for every ingredient in a product, and an analysis of our supply chain from beginning to end. Carbon auditors break emissions into 3 categories:
Direct emissions, e.g. using fuel directly like driving gas powered cars that you own
Indirect emissions from purchased sources, e.g. electricity or gas utilities
Indirect emissions from 3rd parties, e.g. manufacturers or freight companies
Scope 1 emissions are the easiest to measure because you have direct control over them. Many companies choose to offset only scope 1 emissions on the basis that if every company was responsible for their own scope 1 emissions, we would have a carbon neutral world. However, that's not reality now. Some companies we work with don't prioritize sustainability to the extent that we do. There are also virtually no regulations (We support a carbon tax), so theres no legal or economic incentive to change.
But there is a moral incentive to change, which is why Lazy Coconuts chose to offset double all scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions to achieve carbon negative status. We set out to understand the process ourselves, but quickly realized that we needed help from an experienced professional carbon auditor. Auditors have access to large databases of emissions that helps them make accurate calculations. We teamed up with the folks at Clean Earth Collective, a group of passionate environmentalists who were insistent on making accurate calculations based on every piece of data available, no matter how small. At the end of our audit, they gave us a carbon negative certification based on our offsets.
Even after extensive research, there may still be gaps in the data that must be filled using estimations. In these cases, we always assumed the worst case to avoid under-calculating. We also buffered our calculations because our idealized models aren't perfectly accurate. For example, we use straight lines to calculate distances for transportation emissions, but that's never how planes, trucks and boats actually move.
How Much Carbon Is That?
After compiling all the data, we found the average carbon emissions per pack of 48 detergent strips to be 480 gCO2 equivalent (CO2e), a unit that merges all green house gases, like methane or nitrous oxide, into their CO2 equivalent impacts.
Drinking 1.4 lattes
Doing a load of laundry on cold, then line drying
Drinking a bottle of locally bottled beer
Eating 5.6 medium apples
Eating 3.2 medium bananas
Eating 10 medium potatoes
Eating 2 eggs
Eating 10% of a 1/4 pound beef hamburger patty.
Sending 120 emails
For a great in-depth look at the carbon footprint of everyday things, I recommend reading How Bad are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee or The Guardian's "What's the carbon footprint of...", which draws on Mike Berners-Lee's book.
How We Offset Emissions
To offset our emissions, we partnered with The Gold Standard, literally "The Gold Standard" in carbon offsets, managing a huge variety of projects which work towards the UN's sustainability goals. For our first offsets, we've chosen to invest in providing cookstoves for African families, which is a wonderful project that meets a large number of the UN's sustainability goals, including poverty, zero hunger, health, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, climate action, life and land, and partnerships. The families who receive our cookstove often use old indoor cookstoves which are bad for their health and for the environment. The new cookstoves are more than 50% more efficient than those currently in use, and make a huge impact on fuel usage and carbon emissions.
Now that we know the impact of our behavior, we are working extra hard to avoid our most polluting activities, like air freight, because it's even more expensive. And that's the key—companies that self-impose economic penalties for polluting are incentivized to behave responsibly.