Did you know that many companies plant trees on your behalf when you use their goods and services? Just by way of example, my new electricity provider has just informed me that they have planted 35 trees on my behalf and that so far I have saved 0.65 t of CO2 going into the atmosphere and .26 of a ton of coal being used. This is because I now have solar panels and my excess power is going to the state grid. Although most of our own power is from hydro -electricity, its excess is exported to the mainland, thereby reducing its need for coal sourced energy, as well as earning a bit of revenue for both of us. They are also planning more wind farms so I hope they aren't clearing too many trees for that.
Trees at the Click of a mouse
A Dutch company called TreeClicks will plant trees on your behalf if you buy online through the 50,000 companies currently on their books. I am not suggesting that you go shopping because that would negate the value of the trees, but if you use those services anyway, you could do worse than buying them through them. Most of the big brands are there – Domino’s, H &M, Marks and Spencer, Amazon, eBay, a lot of airlines and car hire companies, Menulog, bookshops and so on. There is no cost to you since the company receives a commission from those listed for directing business to them. I haven’t tried this myself – was a bit put off by a notice that said “skimming your details” but a friend who uses Marley Spoon anyway is going to try it for me. You just add the TreeClicks extension to your browser. I’d be pleased to hear from people who’ve tried it.
Trees for changing your search engine
There are several search engines which donate to various charities including environmental ones. Ecosia is a German one which has been going since 2009 and which has an excellent reputation in terms of its charity status, privacy and energy use. It has created its own solar farms and produces 100% more energy than it uses. It uses 86% of its income for tree planting. It works through a company called Plant.it. While it will repair plantation forests which have been damaged, its main concern is for restoring ecosystems and forests which will not to be logged in future. It also does urban forestry and things like donating fuel efficient stoves in places which need them.
The search experience isn’t quite as comprehensive as Google’s since it’s based on Bing, but then it doesn’t on – sell your data either, so I am going to give it a try for a month or so and let you know how it goes. One click is all it takes and it’s just as easy to undo.
SearchScene is another highly rated one which returns 95% of its proceeds to various charities including reforestation projects – you choose which ones you want to support. Read about these and others here.
Since it takes around 45 searches to get a tree you might think this is trivial, but when you consider the trillions of transactions and searches which take place online every day, they do add up. As it is, data centres are expected to chew up 20% of global electricity production over the next few years – more than many countries, so if this encourages them to do their part in fostering renewables then this is not a bad thing. To be sure companies such as Apple are trying to use renewables, but countries such as Ireland which host one of their data centres are complaining that they suck up all the gains which they have been making on the renewable energy front.
Breaking up is hard to do
The other thing I am going to do this month is to see
whether my bank or insurer are supporting fossil fuels. There’s a big push for
this in Europe and many companies including large pension funds are divesting themselves
of such investments because they drive climate change as well as deforestation. Norway’s
huge sovereign wealth fund has already done so. In the USA giant investment houses such
as J P Morgan and Goldman Sachs are doing so, as are insurer Chubb and twelve US cities including New York. The UK Development Bank is about to ditch fossil fuel holdings abroad as is Hong Kong insurer IAIA. Many others are set to do so including Blackrock, the world's largest asset manager, which holds around $85 bn. in coal assets.
Market Forces has already done the research for Australia –
who owns what? Where do they invest and so on. The insurance industry is taking
note as many parts of Australia are becoming uninsurable. Click here for insurance, here for banks and here for Superfunds. Click here for environmentally friendly banks in Canada, USA and other countries,When you are asking questions, beware of vague promises and greenwash too and let them know why you are changing if you do.
Apart from physically or financially supporting those organisations trying to keep the planet green and livable, we also need to lobby our politicians. A carbon tax for instance has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of getting emissions down. It also provides the money for investment in alternative energy and jobs. We should also support those who do the research and those who provide us with the information to make informed decisions. I am personally very grateful to the Guardian both because it is independent and because it has always made environmental news available free of charge.
PS Many thanks for all the encouraging comments lately. I didn't think I was getting any once Google+ stopped, but suddenly there were a whole lot. Then I clicked PUBLISH and they all disappeared, but thanks anyway at least I got to read them, even if no one else did.