Loading...

Ton panier semble actuellement vide !

Empty bag iconContinuer mes Achats

2X1 MAILLOTS DE BAIN limited time only!

{property.name}: {property.value}
  • {property.value}

Planting Trees... & Other Carbon Offset Fallacies

6 min read

Planting Trees... & Other Carbon Offset Fallacies

We love clickbait titles here at the TWOTHIRDS blog! Unfortunately this one often rings true, because a large number of carbon offset programs adopted by many sustainable clothing brands are failing to deliver for those that matter most: our oceans, the environment, and wildlife. 

Whether it is planting trees that die a week later or ejecting ancient tribes from the lands they’ve inhabited sustainably for milenia, we take a look at the carbon offset programs which do more harm than good, as well as those that are fit for purpose. So pull on your favourite sustainable t-shirt, eco-friendly shirt or sustainable pants, and settle in.

What Is Carbon Offsetting?

Before we pick apart the problems with carbon offsetting it’s important to first understand exactly how such programs work, as well as the purpose they serve. It may, or may not, surprise you to learn that the first carbon offset program was co-launched in 1989, not by an eco-friendly fashion brand, but by none other than a company that specialises in building and running coal-fired power stations in the US. Applied Energy Services (AES), along with their partners World Resources Institute (WRI), constructed their very own carbon offset program, which endeavoured to protect rainforests in Guatemala. 

By stating that the forest they were protecting would sequester huge amounts of CO2, AES claimed that their program was offsetting the emissions spewed out by their coal-fired power plants. Fast forward to the modern day, and companies as wide ranging as sustainable clothing firms to airlines now employ some form of carbon offsetting, as they all race to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement and incoming EU ESG legislation

There now exist a whole range of organisations that sell carbon offsetting programs or which offer carbon credits that eco-friendly clothing companies or any entity can buy. Of course this latter option doesn’t actively reduce carbon emissions but it can help fund projects that do.

Tree Planting Offsets

Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, recently told The Guardian that in his opinion the world would be better off without carbon offsetting programs because often their positive impacts are misguided, either purposefully or unknowingly. He cites the case of planting trees, which produces carbon credits that can then be sold to emissions-intensive businesses like airlines. While an airline would use the credits to claim that their operations were sustainable, it would take the trees decades or centuries to grow to the size when they would be able to sequester the carbon levels advertised by said airline. 

Habitat Protection Offsets

One of the biggest furores surrounding carbon offsetting came about at the start of 2023 when journalists and academics produced a report on voluntary carbon offsetting firm, Verra. At the time Verra was the biggest company of its kind in the world. The report found that up to 90% of the credits bought by some of the largest brands in the world, some sustainable clothing ones included, were completely worthless; delivering zero positive environmental impact.

Amongst some of the dud programs promoted by Verra were the most headline grabbing ones, such as those that promised to protect the Amazon rainforest or re-wild large tracts of the ocean. As is often the case, whether you are buying an ethical dress, a sustainable shirt or a voluntary carbon credit, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Hey, But What About Carbon Capture?!

Not strictly speaking a carbon offset scheme, carbon capture projects actively aim to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, usually (but not always) using technology. Carbon capture is seen by many industries as a means of maintaining business as usual, in a fanciful future where CO2 can be drawn down out of the atmosphere at will, in order to stem climate breakdown. 

Some of these technologies even promise to turn industrial emissions into sustainable clothing fibres, which can then be used to craft eco-friendly pants, sustainable t-shirts or even an ethical dress or two! 

However, while such fledgling technologies will undoubtedly play their part in the fight against climate change, they are not the panacea that many “green growth” advocates wish they were. They also encourage people to make the mistake to think that it is solely CO2 emissions which are causing climate breakdown, and to ignore other equally important factors such as habitat loss and global inequality.

Are There Carbon Offsets That Work?

“But wait a second,” we hear you say. “Don’t TWOTHIRDS use a carbon offsetting program?” 

The answer to that question is, yes. We thought long and hard about whether to take the plunge and offset emissions. We pored over which program could be trusted, and eventually felt that the best way to go was to choose a program where we could see the money going directly to local people, who  would be best placed to protect their surrounding natural environment, rather than being left to feel like mere pawns in a game of elaborate corporate greenwashing. 

Our search complete, we found the perfect partners via InfiniteEARTH! We have so far offset a total of 3,097.8 tonnes of CO2 through a carbon offsetting project that renews and protects Indonesian mangroves. This was enough to cover our office and travel-related emissions from 2022. 

As well as helping us work towards becoming truly climate neutral, mangroves serve many vital purposes for local communities, wildlife and the wider environment. These coastal forests, that grow in places where saltwater and freshwater mix, protect habitats and local settlements from storm surges, provide crucial habitats for birds and fish, as well as sequestering huge quantities of CO2. This project in the Rimba Raya biodiversity reserve in Indonesia is run in full cooperation with the local community, ensuring that funds get to the people and places that need it most, and thus have the most impact. 

What Are The Alternatives?

One thing that both proponents and denigrators of carbon offsetting programs agree with is that on their own such programs are never enough when it comes to sustainable clothing companies or firms from other sectors meeting their ESG duties and climate neutrality goals.

The best way that we as creators of eco-friendly fashion can do this is by improving the sustainability of our supply chain processes, while doing the same with the designs of sustainable t-shirts, eco-friendly pants, and ethical jackets, so that they are durable, easily recyclable, and made from the latest in sustainable fashion fabrics and yarn.

Of course, TWOTHIRDS have long been trailblazers in this regard. Our pioneering PRE-ORDER system reduces overproduction to practically zero and all our sustainable clothes are made locally in Spain or Portugal, so that every time you slip on a pair of eco-friendly pants or a cosy sustainable sweater, you can be sure it was given mother nature’s very own seal of approval.