2020 is now behind us. Time to take stock. No, I don’t mean Corona, but my carbon footprint. At some point I had started offsetting my air travel, in the meantime I buy my household of three free. To do that, you can just go to one of the sites Google suggests. Or you can give it three more thoughts and see what’s available.


On what we´re taking a look here:

  • How to calculate my emissions?
  • What am I acutally buying, when I offset?
  • In which ways can be compensated and which projects are particularly useful?
  • Impact investment as an alternative

Note: Some Links forward to pages only available in german, marked with (GER).


How can I calculate my emissions?

According to the latest figures from the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), the German average is 11.17 t CO2e – this will certainly go down a bit in 2020 thanks to the elimination of vacation flights and significantly reduced mobility. However, in order to find out more about one’s own footprint, it is worthwhile to make a more precise calculation. One recommendation is the calculator of the Federal Envirnoment Agency (UBA, only GER), which on the one hand is very detailed and yet can be completed in no more than 10 minutes, either with exact data or averages. What comes out is an orientation (each calculator will spit out a different total, it depends strongly on the methodology), but a solid orientation.

Results page CO2 calculator Federal Environment Agency


What am I actually buying?

Offsetting or compensation simply means that I pay money for someone else to save or bind the emissions that I have caused. There are various options for how this is implemented and guaranteed.

The most common in the private sector are Verified Emission Reductions (VERs): emission reductions that have been verified by an independent body according to a certain standard. The UBA´s very detailed brochure on voluntary emissions (GER) summarizes all the important questions and answers.

In addition, there is the so-called commitment market, where only emission reductions certified under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) under the Kyoto Protocol are permitted. Individuals can also donate to projects directly through the UN without any intermediary costs. Despite seemingly higher-quality certification, their quality is not without controversy (GER). In addition to traded emission reductions, there are also emission rights in the commitment market. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the first cross-border and largest in the world. As the name suggests, it is not about reductions, but about emission rights for the largest emitters, the volume of which is limited and continuously scarce. If a certificate is now purchased and cancelled without the emissions being emitted, defacto one ton less must be emitted. The startup ForTomorrow is based on this principle.

And, of course, there are also offers that are not officially certified or verified. They are not in principle less trustworthy, because as with all seals: It is usually (especially initially) associated with high costs for the projects. I know of several initiatives that simply have their reduction calculations approved by a competent party and offer them directly.


How can offsetting be done and which projects are particularly useful?

ClimatePartner clearly breaks down the options into three areas:

⚡ Green Energy
any form of replacement of fossil or nuclear energy with sustainable energy sources

🌳 Nature Based Solutions
Forest conservation, reforestation, blue carbon, agriculture

🔥 Social Impact
Fuel-efficient cookstoves, Clean drinking water, Small-scale biogas plants

The respective approaches are highly controversial. For example, atmosfair, which is certainly the best-known provider in Germany, does not offer any planting projects.

I would like to highlight two project areas in particular: Forest Conservation and Clean Cookstoves.


Forest Conservation

We are convinced that projects work especially if they are economically viable. This may be the case for most of the emission reduction options mentioned above – but not for forest conservation at present (this is precisely where REDD+ comes in). It is dependent on external financial support. At the same time, existing virgin forests provide many environmental services in addition to their value as CO2 reservoirs, and their destruction is irretrievable once a certain level of destruction is reached. This makes forest protection projects particularly sensible in my eyes.

However, it is not easy to find forest protection projects as a direct compensation offer. I know it for companies (e.g. via ClimatePartner) and otherwise only indirectly: as a donation for rainforest protection projects without specifying an associated offsetting (e.g. NABU (GER), Rainforest Rescue oder Oro Verde (GER)) or else in the form of planting projects designed to reduce pressure on forests (e.g. fairventures).

Fog over landscape in panama

Landscape in Panama


Fuel-efficient cookstoves

Around half of the world’s population cooks at home using solid fuels such as wood, charcoal or agricultural waste. On the one hand, this leads to increasing deforestation in many regions; on the other hand, the WHO estimates that almost 4 million people die each year as a result of exposure to household air pollution. AAccording to computer models, the world’s most common infectious disease, malaria, accounted for 1.8 million deaths in 2004.

Changu Changu Moto cookstove from Ripple Africa in use

The long-term goal, of course, must be to use fuels that burn cleanly and conserve resources, such as biogas or solar energy. An intermediate step is cookstoves that require less energy and are lower in smoke. This is where certification makes double sense, because I keep hearing about projects that fail as soon as the support goes away. The annual spot checks mean that the projects are continuously monitored. Ripple Africa, who work in the north of Malawi, need virtually no money for their clay stoves – it all flows into the community managers and so an extremely high level of stability can be achieved (also UN-certified).



Impact investment as an alternative

An alternative to buying free is the investment of companies that implement reduction projects economically. The advantage here is, on the one hand, that the problem of the failure of the projects after the financial support has dried up is eliminated by the economic action. And on the other hand, of course, that the money was not donated once, but – hopefully – invested profitably. Two examples:

  • Africa GreenTec builds and operates off-grid solar systems in eastern sub-Saharan Africa. In doing so, they replace diesel generators and enable SMEs to emerge and scale up. For scaling and further innovation of their solution, the company awards shares in the crowdfunding model. 250 € investment saves about 70 kg CO2e per year with a 20-year guarantee, according to the company (GER). Offsetting 10 t CO2e thus requires an investment of €1,800 – but with CO2 credit for 20 years.
  • enyway works similar to fairventures with fast growing plantations in Indonesia, but offers a participation of 4,25%. 140 € investment compensate one ton each for 5 years. Correspondingly, for 1,400 € one compensates 10 t CO2e for five years.

At betterplace and bettervest, there are many other ways to directly support small and large projects. However, you have to look closely here: At bettervest, for example, you can find the company burn, , which produces energy-efficient cook stoves in Kenya and is also represented in the ClimatePartner portfolio I.e. via a loan to burn it is possible to earn money from the sale of the VERs – but then of course the neutral position is missing, which was sold on.


Author: Kristina Huch

Showing book Bäume für Borneo

I was very happy when our partner Fairventures sent us the book by Sarina Albeck. What a welcome distraction and opportunity to spend a few socially distanced hours on the sunny balcony – and learn a lot in the process.

In her book Sarina approaches the questions about the causes of deforestation in Indonesia. She does this in a very personal way, starting from the feeling that we all know: it’s not good what’s happening – that should change. But what is actually happening? And why? On the one hand she is dealing the forest, but equally with the people. The following passage is freely translated from German:

There is surprisingly little space for people in our utopia. Sometimes they appear on the margins: as losers of land rights conflicts or as henchmen of corporations in the clearing of large forest areas. Or we imagine them as nomadic primitive peoples who have nothing to do with modernity. Rarely do we see them as normal people with needs and opinions, families living in towns or villages, as farmers, security guards, teachers, saleswomen, men on motorcycles, women with an annoying husband, a sick child who has to go to the doctor, people with a desire to consume (…).

Of course, I point to the point. And I am polemizing. Nevertheless, my impression is that we are allowing ourselves a too simple view of a complex topic. A simplification that is not only useless, but damaging.

The answer she presents as a consequence of her considerations revolves around the concept of Fairventures Worldwide. She portrays Johannes Schwegler, who set up the non-profit enterprise that encourages and enables small-scale farmers on the island of Borneo to plant commercial forests. Why not natural rainforest? Because it would ignore the causes.

Where there used to be rainforest, there are now many open spaces in Kalimantan. Theoretically they could be used for agriculture. Occasionally this happens, but without satisfactory results. The main reason for this is the condition of the former forest soils: they are degraded and hardly fertile anymore. (…) The Sengon is the protagonist of this story.

The Sengon is a pioneer tree – a species that grows even under unfavourable conditions and prepares the ground for other plants. In this way, the land regains its value: catch crops such as peanuts or cocoa can be cultivated. And the sengon grows so fast that it can be felled after seven to ten years.

Sarina introduces the people she has met and talks about what she has seen and how she understood it. She simplifies without becoming under-complex and brings together a variety of reality fragments from which, piece by piece, a rough picture emerges.

The 170 loosely printed pages are a very good introduction to the problems of deforestation, rainforest protection and meaningful reforestation. Unfortunately, as far as I know, not translated yet.

Sarina Albeck: Bäume für Borneo. Wie Aufforstung die indigene Bevölkerung schützt und den Klimawandel bekämpft. Oekom 2020, 19,00 €

The most difficult thing was to bring the seedlings from Chitipa, 100 km away, to Nthalire, reports Madalitso from St. Ignatius Secondary School in Malawi. Because of the heavy rainfalls the road was impassable at times: “There was even a time when we spend a night on the way because the vehicle was stuck. The experience of travelling was not so pleasing.”

Nevertheless, they made it: 1450 seedlings were planted around the school grounds in December: fruit trees such as banana, mango, papaya, guava or avocado – and with blue gum, pine, senna and cassia also ornamental and useful wood. The plants are intended to embellish the school grounds and are also a practical teaching unit for the students. The effects of climate change are increasingly noticeable in sub-Saharan Africa. And Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. The project is an attempt to explain the changes to the pupils and to develop strategies on how to adapt.

St. Ignatius is one of eight schools in Malawi, Zambia and South Africa participating in the project A Tree in Africa. Since all schools have different prerequisites, there are eight different implementations. The coordination is mostly done by the local scout network. The scouts train the students and together with the school staff they take care of planting, care and recycling.

In St. Ignatius there is a Wild Life Club, led by the teachers for geography and agriculture. About 50 pupils from this club took part in the planting campaign. Now it has to be shown how many seedlings will make it through the dry season.

More about the project and the other schools you can find here.

Interview with Markus Wolff from the Remscheid Forest Cooperative on the status quo and perspective of our forest.

In many cases, private forest ownership is divided into small areas through inheritance – in the Bergisches Land on average this is less than two hectares per owner. Profitable management of this land is hardly possible anymore and therefore many forest heirs/owners look to interested buyers as a way out. Then there are, among other things, investors with clear deforestation plans because in NRW up to two hectares can be cut down without the need for a permit.

In order to prevent this and instead manage the forest sustainably, the Remscheid Forest Cooperative was founded 6 years ago. It now cultivates almost exactly 70 hectares of forest and has 232 members – more recently the Panterito Foundation.

Markus Wolff is the founder and chairman of the board of the cooperative – and at the same time he is the Head of the Remscheid City Forestry Office, because only a union makes it possible for the cooperative to do what private owners surrender to. He spoke to Kristina from Panterito about the condition and future of the forest.

Mr. Wolff, there has been a lot of media coverage about drought, forest fires, and the effects of climate change on the forest. Do you also feel this in your forest regions?

Of course. There is no forest in Germany or in Europe, which is not currently visibly or invisibly affected by climate change and is therefore also stressed.

What are the typical signs?

Decreased vitality of the trees. They are just weakened. This expresses itself in being more susceptible to harmful organisms, they lose their leaves early or, if they are a spruce or other conifers, they quickly dry and then become brown.

Although we are still relatively well off. The Bergisches Land is one of the main areas of damage in NRW. Last week I did a tour with a school class in our forest and I noticed that we are still in a comparatively good to very good position due to our forest management.

What are you doing differently?

We do not do anything differently in the forest cooperative to what we do in our urban forest – both are so-called “naturally” cultivated. These are criteria of the ANW, the Association for Natural Forestry, which, among other things, aims to rejuvenate the forest early, thereby bringing in more structure, more diversity, more mix and therefore the trees are simply more vital and resistant.

What are the biggest challenges facing the cooperative now? On the one hand, of course, adaptation to climate change, but on the other hand, there is also the question of how profitability can be achieved – or is that not the focus at all?

Of course, profitability is in a sense a black zero. In view of the fall in price of wood, this is a challenge, no question. But there are indications that the forest is increasingly coming into focus as a result of this change in overall political awareness and that we can open up new markets. That we can achieve yields for CO2 storage, for example, or that we will be rewarded for ecosystem services in the future and for many other things where it is now being felt that we simply cannot work without or with less forest.

It was not until the end of September at the “National Forest Summit” that the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Julia Klöckner, pledged additional funds worth millions to repair the damage. It is now crucial that the urgently needed funds are used in a well-focused manner. If funds are linked to measures for ecosystem services instead of as a flat rate, they promote the conversion of industrial forests into healthy ecosystems in the long term, explains the 12-point paper from NABU, for example.

Project start on a historic date: On today’s global Climate Day, countless people, together with Fridays For Future, set an example for a radical change of direction in climate policy as well as all areas of society. There are no excuses: it is high time to act.

The perfect day to start the project ONE CREW ONE TREE. As of today, the company will donate a tree to event staff artlogic for every paperless order that is processed. It is particularly nice that the international branches participate in this project as well.

Panterito will accompany ONE CREW ONE TREE in the concept phase as well as the implementation and will support the selection of reforestation projects. This is already the second joint project. artlogic has already, in cooperation with Panterito, been compensating its CO2 emissions for several years through an agroforestry project in Panama.

The next goal is to extend this concept to other sectors.

On Arbor Day, Global Forest Watch released the latest figures on global rainforest loss.

In the year 2018, the tropics lost 12 million hectares of forest, including 3.6 million hectares of original rainforest.

Primary rain forests store more carbon than other forests, represent the most diverse habitat of the earth and are difficult or impossible to restore due to their complexity. Despite the fact that more and more countries and companies are committing themselves to abandon deforestation, the loss remains stable compared to the last ten years (except in 2016 and 2017, where record losses were recorded due to severe forest fires).

Global Forest Watch collects its data from satellite figures that is then analysed in regards to tree population. These empirical figures usually deviate strongly from the statements of the FAO, which are based on information provided by the governments.
The exact numbers provided by Global Forest Watch, a detailed list of the countries with the highest losses as well as largest increases, and spotlights on some countries and regions can be found here – in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.