DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET ?

DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE-PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET

On the checkout page of your next laptop purchase, you might see a choice for extra guilt: There are now “carbon offsets” available from some laptop manufacturers, which promise to cancel off all the emissions involved in producing your device. But sadly, it’s not quite that easy. To learn more about offsets, we talked to five experts. In addition, we investigated two offset programmes to see if they were worthwhile and, if not, what you should do in their place if you care about the environment and need a new laptop.

What Are Offsets Carbon ?

In theory, carbon offsets allow organisations (businesses, governments, and individuals) to compensate for their own carbon emissions by paying someone else to reduce their emissions. The two most significant types of carbon offsets are. The first category consists of measures that, in theory, prevent emissions from occurring in the first place. The contrary is represented by carbon removals, or actions that remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it. However, according to Jamie Alexander, director of Drawdown Labs, a charity that collaborates with digital companies on local weather solutions, offsets are “an extremely muddy world and without a whole lot of control.”

DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
GOOGLEVOX
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET

James McCall, HP’s chief sustainability officer, said in an interview that “not all offsets are created equal.” Despite their being widely accepted standards for what constitutes a good offset, Barbara Aiman, director of the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project, who has studied offsets for 20 years, remarked that “the problem is that most offsets don’t represent meaningful carbon reductions.” “Therefore, it’s incredibly difficult for the laptop buyer to tell how thoroughly the seller really vetted the project,” Although many organisations call for greater transparency on offsets, determining whether a given offset is worthwhile investing in can be time- and effort-consuming for anyone.

Before a company to reduce the emissions involved in producing a laptop computer, it must first measure those emissions. The process of tracing a product’s carbon footprint is snobby and ineffective; at best, it provides an estimate, which is typically expressed in kilogrammes of carbon dioxide equivalents, or kgCO2e. The projected carbon footprints for a typical thin-and-light laptop ranged from 161 kgCO2e to 334 kgCO2e as we looked through experiences from all the major laptop computer manufacturers. While attempting to offset an object’s emissions, it is preferable to overestimate them, so when examining two currently available offset options offered by Lenovo and Framework, we selected the higher end of that range.

What About Framework Offset Program ?

The company Framework, which created the replaceable and upgradeable Framework laptop, offers a special type of carbon offset through Running Tide. Working Tide is a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) company that seeks to draw carbon dioxide out of the environment into floating kelp “microforests” that sink to the bottom of the ocean to sequester the carbon over the long term. This is in contrast to initiatives that focus on avoiding emissions, like those described above. Through Working Tide, you may purchase a Carbon Capture Credit worth approximately 334 kgCO2e for $100. But does using this credit actually “[m]ake your Framework Laptop carbon unbiased,” as the company advertises?

Despite the fact that there are still unanswered scientific problems regarding this particular approach, scientists concur that carbon removal is “important” and that kelp sequestration is a potential option. Working with Ocean Visions to provide feedback on Working Tide’s analysis and subject trials, impartial experts, including Tom Bell, an assistant scientist at the Woods Gap Oceanographic Establishment, published a status report in July 2021. (PDF). Bell told us in an interview that “they brought in neutral scientific consultants, which is one thing they shouldn’t have done, and so they have been quite responsive to our proposal.”

Scientists concur that carbon removal is “important” and that kelp sequestration is a viable option, despite the fact that there are still unanswered scientific questions regarding this particular approach. Tom Bell, an assistant scientist at the Woods Gap Oceanographic Establishment, and other unbiased scientists collaborated with Ocean Visions to provide feedback on Working Tide’s research and subject trials, and the group produced a status report in July 2021. (PDF). Bell told us in an interview that “they brought in objective scientific experts, which is one thing they shouldn’t have done, and so they have been extremely responsive to our proposal.”

But Bell also explained the need for more research into the project’s ability to capture and store carbon, as well as other issues like the need to determine whether or not it can operate at a large enough scale to make a dent in emissions and other environmental effects on the surface and deep ocean. 1 These issues are “not a big worry” on the current Working Tide analysis scale, but they “may be a big deal” if the project scaled up to store significant amounts of carbon, according to Bell.

The kelp-sequestration project of Working Tide does not experience the same issues with additionality as the avoided-emissions offsets we discussed before. It’s “obviously more” because, according to Qumber of CarbonPlan, “you don’t have any reason to be growing microfarms that sink into the deep ocean other from the carbon advantages.”

However, one of the biggest unanswered concerns relates to exactly estimating the amount of carbon being taken from the ecosystem, how much will be preserved when the kelp is sunk, and how long that carbon will remain saved—the permanence question. Modeling was used in a 2021 publication Bell co-authored to determine that the amount of carbon stored in kelp depends heavily on where and how deep it descends, and that it is kept in the water for many years. This process is not as long-lasting as other sequestration options that might store carbon in rocks underground for ages, but such technology is even further off.

What About Lenovo Offset Program?

Beginning in 2022, Lenovo will start to give offsets at the checkout for some of its gaming and ultra-thin laptops. The Yoga 7i (14″) and Yoga 9i (14″) both provide this option, and we were able to confirm through email with Claudia Contreras-Gomez, Lenovo’s senior director of global sustainability services, that the $6 and $11 offsets each equal one tonne of carbon emissions. The figures are rounded to the nearest half tonne and represent the company’s best estimate of each model’s carbon footprint. Good news thus far,

However, it might be challenging to determine precisely which initiatives receive funding. When we asked Contreras-Gomez for more information, she provided links to the geothermal energy project in Indonesia, the geothermal energy project in Korea, and a biomass power plant in Chile that wasn’t listed on the publicly accessible flyer. Lenovo’s website has a PDF flyer that lists several projects.

Since their goal is to stop carbon from being released into the atmosphere, these offsets fall under the category of “avoided emissions.” However, this does not imply that these projects are without problems simply because they bear the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emblem. The concept of additionality and the starting dates of the projects were two of the main issues raised by the experts we spoke with regarding this kind of offset project.

85 percent of all Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects are unlikely to be extra, according to a 2016 European Commission analysis (PDF), meaning that the vast majority of such projects would have been constructed without the aid of offset funds.

The offset credits’ age is the second problem. Regarding the three offset projects that Lenovo is utilising, two were registered in 2006, while the third was registered in 2007. Countries are not permitted by the Paris Agreement to use offset credits from projects that were registered before 2013, and CORSIA (the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) does not accept offset credits from any project that was created before 2016.

There is no restriction preventing Lenovo from using these offset credits. However, if you’re supporting a significant piece of infrastructure for which decisions were made more than ten years ago, can you truly claim that you’re producing a fresh climate benefit, asked CarbonPlan programme associate Freya Qumber in an interview? In the end, purchasing these offsets from Lenovo doesn’t cancel out the emissions that were produced your notebook, and Aiman of the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project said that “you could not be making any difference at all.”

DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
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DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET

What Should Companies Be Doing?

In addition to the offsets offered by Framework and Lenovo at the moment, other laptop manufacturers are thinking about implementing similar programmes. The option “won’t be too far away” for consumers, according to HP’s chief sustainability officer James McCall, who stated in an interview that the business has ran test projects for enterprise clients. The company “does not currently use offsets at the company level or offer offsets to consumers at checkout,” a Dell representative informed us.

DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET

Almost all of the experts we talked to agreed that businesses should only use offsets as a last resort.

DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET

It is impossible to know how successful such offsets might be without a lot of care, as shown by our investigation into Lenovo’s and Framework’s offset programmes. Barbara Aiman warned us that we shouldn’t take offsets seriously in the present. “The market is broken, and any claims of net carbon neutrality if offsets are employed should raise an eyebrow.”

Additionally, businesses shouldn’t at anyway delegate the burden of offsetting to individuals. According to Amir Jina, an environmental economist and assistant professor of public policy at the University of Chicago, “putting that burden on the consumer is an issue.” Because if that is the case, it implies that you, the consumer, and not the production method we have decided to use, are in charge of your carbon footprint. Almost all of the experts we talked to agreed that businesses should only use offsets as a last resort. “There’s no pressure for those things to change if we’re just buying offsets and the laptop’s production process stays as carbon-intensive and polluting as it already is,” said Jina.

According to Jamie Alexander of Drawdown Labs, “reduction and avoidance of emissions is clearly the most critical thing” for businesses to undertake initially. After then, businesses “had to be doing other stuff to make up for those emissions,” as seen in this Drawdown chart. “Emissions is not the only option available to businesses when it comes to sustainability,” Alexander stated. They are able to advocate for climate policies. They may change their investment strategy.

Additionally, businesses shouldn’t in any way transfer the burden of offsets on individuals. Amir Jina, an assistant professor of public policy at the College of Chicago and an environmental economist, said that shifting responsibility to the customer was a problem. Because doing so implies that it is you, the customer, and not the manufacturing process we have decided to engage in, that is responsible for your carbon footprint. Almost every professional we spoke with agreed that companies should only use offsets as a last option.

“There is no pressure for these things to change if we are merely purchasing offsets and the laptop manufacturing process continues to be as carbon-intensive and polluting as it is currently.”

As Jamie Alexander of Drawdown Labs told us, “Discount and avoidance of emissions is completely a very powerful aspect” for firms to accomplish first. After that, businesses “should be doing different items to make up for these emissions,” according to this Drawdown chart. “Emissions is simply not the only aspect that firms have at their disposal to undertake in relation to sustainability,” Alexander concluded. For coverage of the local weather, they will foyer. They’ll change where they invest.

What Can You Do As An Individual Person ?

What can you do, therefore, if such offsets don’t sufficiently offset the emissions from your laptop? Every one of our specialists emphasised the need of minimising your own emissions. Emission reductions should be a top focus for everyone, whether they are corporate, private, or governmental, according to Qumber of CarbonPlan. “By far, skipping one flight will have a bigger impact than using your laptop,” the speaker said. A laptop’s lifetime emissions are about equivalent to just 4.2% of a typical American’s annual residential energy consumption, according to the EPA’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.

Another important factor in reducing emissions is purchasing less goods. I might try a once-every-six-year update rather than a once-every-four-year upgrade, Amir Jina said. He also suggested pressuring laptop manufacturers to offer additional alternatives for repairs and upgrades. The greatest course of action would be to demand from those who make laptops that there be a solution to avoid always purchasing brand-new laptops.

In addition to laptops, Aiman and Qumber both advised electrifying your home if you can. (Carbon Switch provides some useful manuals.) Qumber advised that electrifying your home with the $100 you are saving would be preferable to buying random offsets or tree planting or anything else. Another choice, according to Aiman , is to “think about where you can make the biggest influence with that money and take the money that you want to spend on offsets.” “It may be helping a nonprofit, working on projects, or working on policies,” Aiman continued. It might involve assisting businesses with new technology demonstration projects.

“Carbon is not the only lens through which to think about environmental good,” Qumber remarked to us. It’s a really essential one, but social justice, conservation, and biodiversity are important. There is no single answer to the climate change problem; every little thing each and every person does counts.

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DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET
DOES BUYING A CARBON OFFsET FOR YOUR LAPTOP rEALLY HELP THE PLANET

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