Carbon Offset | Swift Geosptial

The carbon pressure cooker

As one of the primary keywords for climate change, global warming and environmental impact, the word carbon, as one of the main Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), is met with an urgent frenzy of associated movements, buzzwords, policies and terms such as (to name just a few): the ‘carbon footprint,’ the ‘Corporate Carbon Footprint’ (CCF), the ‘Net-Zero challenge’, ‘carbon credits,’ the ‘Carbon Tax Bill,’ The ‘Paris Agreement,’ the urgency of the ‘1.5 Degreemarker.

 As the main greenhouse gas with the highest level of emissions in the atmosphere, it is not surprising that the term is met with such urgency and pressure. Ultimately, the status quo of carbon it seems is sending environmentally-conscious individuals, businesses, corporations, governments and world organizations into a pressing trend of protocols, elimination programs and management schemes.

Carbon is one of the main culprits for global warming and ultimately, climate change; carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels, namely coal, natural gas, and oil are burned. According to Hellebusch & Gupta (2020) for; carbon emissions get all the spotlight for climate catastrophe discussion, because it’s the main dependent factor and because it is the most feasible and accurate way for us to assess and assign environmental culpability to companies, governments, and individuals.

Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels, namely coal, natural gas, and oil are burned; ultimately contributing towards a greenhouse effect in the earth’s atmosphere.

Sequestration and carbon offset programmes

 Not many individuals or companies are mindful of the fact that a majority of the activities that keep our conventional homes and businesses running have a daily impact on the planet. While reducing our carbon emissions through the energy-efficient alternatives that are out there is the first environmentally responsible action to take, unfortunately, certain emissions (such as the means by which you are reading this very article) will always be unavoidable. Enter carbon offsetting: this consoling concept is given its impetus through balancing out the impact of these unavoidable emissions, through the means of giving back to nature and communities around the world.

Sound ‘airy-fairy?’ Let us explain: we offset carbon through a process called sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Mother Nature has provided us with ‘green sponges’ that have been doing this all along: plants. Plants sequester carbon by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transforming it into biomass through photosynthesis. Sequestered carbon is then accumulated in the form of biomass, deadwood, litter and in forest soils.

Forests in this context are referred to as carbon sinks that play a fundamental role in absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and more importantly, they currently absorb and store more carbon than they release, making them one of the leading natural solutions to the climate crisis.

If this is not motivating enough, regardless of all the awareness and forest policies at hand, there is still between 13 and 14 million hectares of tropical forest lost every year. Devastating estimates suggest that the degradation of tropical forests emits 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 per year (

Armed with this incredible knowledge and compounding urgency; carbon offset programmes seem to be one of the new 21st century empires of the web, as creative, responsive schemes are being generated and innovated across the globe. Reforestation programmes, community upliftment schemes and rehabilitation projects are subsequently dotting the globe, through a simple, yet insanely powerful, collective ‘click of the mouse.’

Thousands of  individuals, businesses and leading brands have already joined these innovative organizations and NGO’s that implement energy efficiency, reforestation, and renewable energy programs to offset a portion (or all) of the carbon emissions created.

Tree Counting Accountability

Examples of the tree planting initiatives and organisations we recommend:

  • Food and Trees for Africa pioneers a variety of programs for Corporate Social Investment, as well as Enterprise and Supplier Development through community greening initiatives such as enterprise orchards, community nurseries, starter farms, food forests and more. F&T also hosts the African Climate Reality Project (ACRP) — a branch of the US-based The Climate Reality Project; which was established to support African Climate Reality Leaders in their efforts to combat climate change in Africa.
  • More than 1000 leading brands are offsetting their emissions and restoring nature by supporting forest projects through the Pachama This platform allows businesses to purchase carbon credits in exchange for a branded impact page which shares data such as the amount of hectare of protected forest a given business has achieved through the carbon credits that they have purchased.
  • Graine de Vie is a European-based NGO dedicated to protection, afforestation and reforestation. Carbon offsetting is ensured by planting trees in their large-scale projects based in developing countries such as Madagascar, Togo, Benin, Cameroon and Ghana.
  • In partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects, Ecologi offers personal plans, family plans, as well as business plans where monthly donations contribute towards a certain amount of trees being planted by upskilled communities per month.
  • Ireland-based Self Help Africa works to help protect smallholder farmers in rural Africa in the fight against the worst effects of climate change. For every native tree that sponsors aid to plant in Ireland, ten more are planted in strategic locations throughout Africa.
  • On a Mission is a non-profit organisation enabling businesses and individuals to invest in carefully selected sustainable reforestation projects in order to offset their carbon emissions.
  • EcoMatcher is an innovative platform that plants trees and complete forests with vetted foundations and NGOs from around the world specialized in planting trees. Companies are given innovative options, such as using trees for corporate gifting, rewards, loyalty, and employee engagement programs.
  • Funded by numerous companies and organisations through grants, donations, and as pledge partners, Cape Town based Greenpop aims to plant 500,000 trees to restore degraded forest areas, increase biodiversity, and expand ecosystem services across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.

Monitoring for accountability 

Indeed, making a difference is literally at our very fingertips nowadays. In fact, we are spoiled for choice with all of the options available! Really, within a few clicks- your home, office or entire organisation may offset its carbon emissions through these powerful and inspiring initiatives. As a feel-good spin-off, you walk away feeling great. Publicising your green efforts has a powerful effect as you proudly (and rightfully-so!) boast on social media about how your co-op is regenerating a forest somewhere in Africa. …

However, wouldn’t you want to know a few years down the line how (for example) your ‘company forest’ is doing? Has it been chopped down for firewood, eroded away by disease or drought, or is it genuinely thriving? Has it even been planted at all? Simply put, does your selected carbon offsetting program show accountability for what they say they have planted on your behalf?

As much as it is our ecological responsibility to partake in these inspiring schemes and programmes- it is also important to thoroughly investigate if the initiative you have selected makes the effort of documenting, sharing and involving you with the difference you have helped to make in a tangible way. Did those fruit or nut trees that you selected to plant ever reach maturity so that they actually could aid towards the food security of the community in which they are homed? Did your allotment in a given reforestation project ever reach the maturity to integrate successfully enough for sufficient habitat creation?

Moreover, one should be mindful of the fact that the more these trees grow and increase in height and trunk diameter; the more carbon they will be offsetting as they mature. Therefore, your carbon offsetting becomes compounded with each year of successful maturity- which is another reason why it is important for these planting schemes to be monitored on a yearly basis- especially for accuracy purposes.

In short, monitoring tree carbon-offsetting programs is a worthy, yet overlooked tool that could save millions worth of donations from being rendered inconsequential. For example- are the species that are being planted have a good historical survival rate? Moreover, does the imagery show evidence of maintenance? Radar data may also be used to monitor the canopy growth, and to catch any deforestation or fires as they may be happening.

In conclusion (and, it must be noted- in general); there seems to be an overall absence of reliable data that remotely verifies tree planting carbon-offsetting projects and their progress thereof. Leading brands are proudly sharing ‘impacts’ that may never be reached. Remote monitoring of these schemes is an often overlooked, yet profoundly powerful tool that may be used in order to strengthen the impact that these projects can make through the informative feedback that can be provided. What is more; sharing the progress reports thereof will elevate passive donors into active, more involved individuals who will be more likely to extend their membership based on the rewarding communication and personal interaction they can receive in turn. Ultimately, the monitoring of carbon offsetting programs is all about building investor confidence.


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