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 scenarios, extreme events like heatwaves, fires, and droughts will become more common.
Although many of us make commitments to minimise our carbon footprint, it is the governments and corporations that have the influence and capital to fight for our planet.
Many of them are looking toward offsetting to reach carbon neutrality. Whether it’s planting trees or investing in overseas development, carbon offsetting projects have the potential to mitigate tonnes of emissions.
Do carbon offsets work?
Many carbon offsetting projects are not as effective as they seem.
For example, trees are one of our planet’s best carbon sinks, but our over-reliance on planting them will hurt us in the long run. On a mission to rewild more land, we may forget that we need to say 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 for planting 100,000 trees. Now they’re 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 carbon 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), 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.
By tackling food waste and producing sustainable feed, the X1 can save up to 130 tonnes of CO₂e emissions each year. None of this comes at the cost of profit. The feed our system produces results in healthier, happier, and more productive animals.
Insetting is like turning the tap off.
Are carbon offsets ineffective? The answer is not that simple.
They can create positive change. But if they’re the only change being made, then somebody is missing the point.
Insetting addresses the real inefficiencies within a company and can prove it for a sustainable future. It’s no easy task, but, just like with a bathtub that is overflowing with water, it’s better to turn off the tap than to look for creative ways to store the excess.
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.
At Better Origin, we set out to reduce carbon emissions right at the source, targeting food waste and replacing soy feed in animal feed.