Why insetting, not offsetting, will help us reach Net Zero

September 21, 2021

A recent Climate Change report published by IPCC has once again brought to the attention the scale and severity of climate change. Even in the optimistic 1.5°C scenario, extreme events like heatwaves, fires, and droughts will become more common.

Although many of us make commitments to minimise their carbon footprint, it is the governments and corporations that have the influence and money to fight for our planet.

Many of them are looking towards offsetting to reach carbon neutrality. Whether it’s planting trees or investing in renewable technology, carbon offsetting projects have the potential to mitigate tonnes of emissions.

The efficiency of carbon offsets.

Carbon offsetting projects are not as effective as they seem. For example, trees can take years, or even decades, to reach their carbon-capturing potential.

On a mission to rewild more land, we may forget that we need said land to grow our food. A report from Oxfam shows that if we focus on planting forests to reach Net Zero, we will need around 1.6bn hectares – more than all the farmland on the planet. This would impact food security and raise food prices.

Not to mention that consumers can tell real change from greenwashing. Gone are the days when people would applaud a company planting 100,000 trees. Now they are asking: “What about the plastic in your packaging?”. And they’re right.

But perhaps the biggest issue with carbon offsets is that they don’t tackle the emissions that are happening within the company’s supply chain. They’re a way of outsourcing responsibility, allowing ‘business as usual’ to continue without long-term change.

What is insetting?

This is where insetting comes in. To put it simply, carbon insetting is when a company addresses the emissions within its own value chain. It focuses on the impact of manufacturing, running operations, and transportation.

The same action can qualify as offsetting or insetting in a different context. I know that I’ve been criticising the idea of planting forests, but take the example of Nespresso. They committed to planting 10 million trees within their own coffee farms. And it wasn’t just a step towards carbon neutrality.

The trees would double as carbon sequesters and protectors of the coffee bushes. Shielded from extreme weather and rain, the bushes would produce more coffee for years to come.

A gift that keeps on giving.

Insetting is about creating a virtuous cycle – it’s a project that generates value for our planet and for the company. It does not sacrifice profit – it actually generates more revenue.

The idea that achieving Net Zero means lower revenue often persists. And while carbon offsets are rarely profitable to the company in the long-term (aside from some positive PR of course), insetting projects like the Nespresso initiative are aimed at growing as a company.  

At Better Origin, our vision was for our insect farm to be a tool that helps food companies and farmers clean up their supply chain. We took inspiration from nature, where insects convert food waste into nutritious protein. We ended up with an insetting machine, mitigating emissions right where they happen. 

Better Origin X1 farm.

By tackling food waste and producing sustainable feed, the X1 can save up to 565 tonnes of CO₂ emissions per year. And, with production-related emissions of up to 13 tonnes, we’re proud to call the unit carbon-negative. None of this comes at the cost of profit. The feed our system produces results in healthier, happier, and more productive hens.

Time is running out in our fight for a habitable Earth. We hope that more and more businesses realise the power of insetting and look at how much can be improved without leaving their own factory line.

So you want to know more about carbon insetting?

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