Carbon Neutral Shipping
Mar 21st 2023
Carbon Neutral Shipping With Cloverly
In 2021, EcoEnclose partnered with Cloverly and the May Ranch Grassland Project to give brands the option to ship their packaging orders carbon neutral.
We are so thrilled to share that over the past two years, the carbon emissions of almost 40,000 orders have been offset, saving over 73 tons of carbon.
We recognize that shipping is a small component of a product's carbon footprint. By working with EcoEnclose, brands have already found sustainable packaging with the highest recycled content - and therefore the lowest carbon footprint - possible. Offsetting the emissions of shipping this packaging to your facility is an additional valuable positive step brands can take.
Who is Cloverly?
Cloverly makes it incredibly easy for ecommerce brands to offer carbon neutral shipping to their customers. With just a few clicks, BigCommerce, Shopify and Magento companies can install Cloverly to their site. Cloverly also offers custom integrations for stores not on one of these three platforms. After that, Cloverly’s unique API will calculate the carbon emissions of a customer’s cart at checkout, and enable the purchase of an equivalent amount of offsets and Renewable Energy Credits to help mitigate these environmental impacts.
Our partnership with Cloverly aims to empower ecommerce brands to ship more sustainably - through a combination of eco-friendly packaging that reduce your brand’s ecological impact and the power of carbon credits to offset the footprint of shipping.
May Ranch Grassland: Our Chosen Offset Project
The May Ranch Grassland project is purposeful protection of grasslands in the eastern part of the state. The family-owned May Ranch was approached by companies interested in converting the land for different uses- water rights, solar panel farms, and agricultural land for animal feed crops. The family worked with several organizations to instead protect the land and benefit from its inherent ecosystem services. The project is now managed by Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit focused on wetland and waterfowl conservation.
Grasslands hold incredible amounts of carbon in their massive root and soil systems, and have unfortunately disappeared rapidly as cities and suburbs expand. Healthy soil absorbs and holds carbon for long periods of time. At 14,500 acres, if the May Ranch land was converted from its natural prairie form, it would release 8,000 metric tons of carbon per year for the next 50 years. That’s the equivalent of adding 50,000 cars to roads each year!
The May Ranch project aligns with our belief in the importance of soil health in curbing climate change- all the better that it’s in our favorite place!
Bioregionalism: Why it matters
Do you know the species of birds native to your city? How about the trees, or wildflowers? Have you ever learned the geology of your geography? The philosophy called bioregionalism is all about understanding and partaking in your bioregion- the ecosystems and natural environment specific to where you live.
We're big believers in improving your little plot of the world (“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”,) and creating value and protection for the local region. Feeling an allegiance to, and responsibility for, the place you live makes tackling the global issue of climate change more approachable and tangible. Not to mention, it heightens your sense of place and belonging in your own ecosystem.
We also focused on a Colorado-based project because of our pride in this state, the ecosystems, and the natural beauty here. Our company is made up of many transplants- professionals who came from all over the country to Boulder County for its beauty and one-of-a-kind culture: a tightly-knit community of environmental enthusiasts, outdoors-seekers and athletes, and folks building a responsible corporate culture and local supply chain.
Q&A with Cloverly: The Role of Carbon Offsets in Achieving Sustainability Goals
Google, Microsoft, REI….there are quite a few large companies that announced in 2020 that they went “Carbon Neutral.” Carbon offsets and Renewable Energy Credits are currently a major component of any company’s carbon neutrality strategy.
Ideally, when a company goes “carbon neutral” or “carbon negative”, it is measuring its carbon footprint, finding ways to reduce emissions, and utilizing carbon credits to offset whatever impact can’t be eliminated.
Carbon offsets can be confusing and can be really overwhelming for smaller companies who can’t afford cost prohibitive full carbon audits and sustainability consultants. Luckily, the expert Cloverly team knows their stuff, and is in the business of making this simple and easy for an ecommerce brand!
So read on for a Q&A with the amazing Cloverly team about the current and future role of carbon offsets in sustainability.
1. What are carbon offsets?
Carbon offsets are investments in projects that keep carbon out of the atmosphere by reducing, avoiding, or sequestering (capturing and storing) carbon emissions.
Because the Earth is one giant carbon sink, such offsets can neutralize emissions of an equivalent amount of carbon elsewhere by keeping the net amount of carbon in the air unchanged. Carbon is a component of virtually all greenhouse gases—gases that, in the atmosphere, warm the Earth like an insulating blanket.
Each offset (sometimes called a carbon credit) represents 1 tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduced, avoided, or sequestered. A tonne is a metric ton—1,000 kilograms, or 2,205 pounds. A carbon dioxide equivalent is a measure that accounts for the differing potency of various greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide, the least powerful, has a global warming potential of 1. Methane, another common greenhouse gas, has a global warming potential of 25. So 1 pound of methane would count as 25 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents.
There are literally hundreds of different types of offset projects. Some generate electricity by clean, renewable means. Others capture greenhouse gases emanating from livestock waste, landfills, abandoned mines, leaky pipes, industrial processes, or other sources. Trees store carbon in their wood and roots, so reforestation or improved forest management can sequester carbon. Environmentally minded entrepreneurs are continually creating new varieties of offsets.
2. Why are carbon offsets helpful in improving the sustainability of businesses and achieving overall sustainability goals?
Since at least 1895, scientists have known that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are changing the climate. In the 21st century, the potential harm of climate change has become ever more urgently apparent.
Virtually all industries are moving in the direction of carbon neutrality. Most, however, cannot currently eliminate all of their carbon emissions. The technology does not yet exist, is not practical at scale, or is prohibitively expensive. Carbon offsets help businesses minimize their impact on the environment during the transition period.
3. How are carbon offset projects selected and vetted?
Cloverly uses only offset projects that are publicly registered and have their claims verified by independent third parties. Registries include those of the American Carbon Registry, the Climate Action Reserve, Verra, Gold Standard, and such specialized organizations as City Forest Credits. They all follow detailed methodologies for ensuring that carbon offsets are real, measurable, verifiable, permanent, and additional. “Additional” means that the carbon savings would not have happened without the offset project and that the project would not have happened unless it got certified to sell carbon offsets.
Each registry contains extensive, meticulous, public online documentation about each of its projects for maximum transparency. For example, the description document for a forestry project would explain in excruciating detail exactly how the project’s creators calculated the entire forest’s total baseline biomass—above and below ground, living and dead. Projects are periodically verified and monitored by third parties, and the registries include the resulting reports. Registries also track the credits they list to ensure that emission reductions are not double counted.
Cloverly sources projects of the highest quality—projects that truly make a positive difference. We look for projects in a variety of geographic areas, because we try to match offsets to the location of the consumers of those offsets. We keep an eye out for projects with what are called co-benefits—tangential benefits, such as public recreation or filtering of air or water pollutants, beyond the carbon reduction, avoidance, or sequestration. Sometimes, our partners request that we add specific types of projects or even specific individual projects to our portfolio.
4. There is some criticism that carbon offsets can be a crutch, giving businesses and people the ability to be “carbon neutral” without making any real effort in minimizing their carbon footprint—how do you respond to claims like this?
Carbon offsets have long been recognized as an effective means to help curb the climate impacts of emissions generated in connection with the technologies and activities that make modern life what it is. While, by design, they do not directly address the source of emissions, they serve as an effective mechanism to address the long-standing issue of companies and individuals not accounting for the costs of carbon emissions in their businesses and lives.
Other instruments and regulatory regimes attempt to address this “externalization of the costs of carbon,” such as “cap-and-trade” policies. While no method of accounting for and internalizing the costs of carbon is perfect, each represents an attempt to align accountability and costs caused by emissions with those who cause the emissions to take place. Carbon offsets are globally accepted as one means of addressing the externalization of emission impacts - they are key tools for curbing carbon impacts under international legal structures built upon the Kyoto Protocols and the Paris Accords, for example.
In light of all this, Cloverly’s view on this issue is consistent with one of its core driving philosophies: “radical transparency.” Cloverly acknowledges that, while not perfect, carbon offsets are one tool among many that can help make great strides in decarbonizing the economy and remedying the emissions issues the world faces.
While not necessarily removing direct carbon emissions from business processes, it is an overstatement to say that the use of carbon offsets does not involve “making any real effort in minimizing their carbon footprint.” The first step to minimizing a company’s carbon footprint is understanding and accounting for what that footprint is and finding ways to, at a minimum, internalize the costs of that footprint. The use of carbon offsets requires a company to do both. In line with radical transparency, Cloverly encourages companies that utilize carbon offsets to be honest with customers about their carbon footprint, how they account for it, how they use carbon offsets to address them and what those offsets are.
5. What do you see as the future of carbon offsets in business and policy?
Outside of the US, carbon offsets are already a key component in governments’ climate policies and emission mitigation. To the extent the US government formally adopts climate policies based upon the Paris Accords and Kyoto Protocols, carbon offsets will likely play a large role in compliance. Robust carbon offset markets will drive investment in more and more environmental projects. The entire theory of carbon offsets is that they provide a financial mechanism to have a cost-based justification that could lead to easier access to project financing. Cloverly’s platform is intended to make that market easier to access for both suppliers and consumers of offsets with the hope that it will help drive the maturation of a robust market.
As the market matures, Cloverly hopes its philosophy of radical transparency becomes a basic expectation of all market participants, and that it will accelerate the development of more precise standards for calculation of carbon impacts. We hope it will develop more and more confidence from consumers and the public that offsets truly represent a meaningful mitigation of emissions.
It’s important to remember that carbon offsets are just one of many available tools to address emissions and none of the tools are mutually exclusive. Paired with direct emissions reductions, renewable energy generation, behavioral changes, and more, companies and people have many ways to mitigate their climate impact and all options should continue to be pursued.
6. Tell us about Cloverly—how did you get started, what was the motivation, and where are you today?
Cloverly is proud to be the first incubated startup in Southern Company’s 100-year history. In 2018, the industry-leading energy corporation announced its renewed commitment to innovation and a low-carbon future. The company pledged its dedication to the development and deployment of sustainable energy solutions, including investing in technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The reality at this time, and still today, was that most industries could not completely eliminate all of their carbon-emitting business activities on demand, meaning that carbon offsets and renewable energy credits would be an important part of a green future.
Our founder and CEO, Anthony Oni, had over 18 years of experience in the energy industry, and saw that businesses, organizations, and individuals, in the pursuit of offsetting their carbon footprint, often found the underlying carbon markets inaccessible, overwhelming, fractured, or inefficient. Buying carbon offsets was difficult for the enterprise, practically impossible for the consumer, and unavailable for everyone in small quantities. If you wanted to calculate and offset the carbon impact of your commute to work, supply chain operations, or online deliveries, there was no easy solution or access point. Enter, Cloverly.
With a sole investment from Southern Company, and many hours of coding and development later, the Cloverly API was launched on Earth Day 2019 as a new kind of SaaS company: Sustainability as a Service.
In the months following, Anthony recruited a high-performing Cloverly team, a passionate, diverse group of eco-obsessed problem solvers. Cloverly is a wholly-owned, operating subsidiary of Southern Company, which allows our team access to energy industry experts and a rich industry knowledge base.
However, it’s important to note that Cloverly’s primary link to Southern Company is in serving as the fruition of its commitment to foster innovation and intrapreneurship in technologies that reduce GHG emissions.
7. What are you most looking forward to with Cloverly going into 2021?
We’re focusing on four main areas for 2021:
- We want to help our current (and future) partners explore new ways of integrating the estimating and offsetting of carbon emissions into their everyday business operations, easily and seamlessly. That will involve learning from our partners as well as teaching them about the powerful possibilities of our API.
- We want to continue expanding our presence beyond ecommerce, which has been our primary use case so far. Cloverly’s API can bring carbon neutrality to a wide variety of business sectors, including flights, ridesharing, energy, supply chains, fleets, and even fintech and enterprise resource planning. That will mean creating new, frictionlessly integrated native applications built for specific platforms in those industries—think something like Shopify for logistics.
- We want to explore new offset projects and build new relationships with the ecosystem builders who make these carbon mitigation projects happen. We want to continue developing our ability to drive new demand for offsets and to deliver financial support for the most meaningful projects around the world.
- We want to continue to upgrade the user interface and user experience of Cloverly.com for our brand partners and individual consumers, striving for maximum transparency and availability of information. The goal is to continue building trust and awareness around carbon offsets and their role in helping to stop global climate change.
Most of all, we want to continue working with great partners, like EcoEnclose, who share our vision for moving the world toward sustainability.
Cloverly helps companies and individuals go carbon neutral or carbon negative by connecting them with various Renewable Energy Credits and offset projects, such as reforestation, solar and wind farms, greenhouse gas capture, and more. Cloverly’s powerful API calculates carbon emissions and purchases offsets and Renewable Energy Credits in real-time to mitigate the environmental impacts of everyday activities, in a transparent way that is easy to use and understand for both companies and consumers.