Carbon Footprints

The role of carbon dioxide in our changing climate is now well understood – as is the need for ever more ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The UK average annual carbon footprint
is currently just over 11 tonnes of CO
2e* per person.
By 2030 it needs to be below 5.5 tonnes.
(That’s half – in just 10 years)! 

*This is the UK’s ‘consumption’ figure, which includes the footprints of imported goods and services and excludes exports. This provides the best indicator of the emissions for which we are responsible as UK residents.

We all have a role to play – from the global corporation to the private individual. But it’s never easy to know how to act for the best. At UBoC, we would suggest a three stage approach:

Stage 1) Find out what your carbon footprint actually is (see below)

Stage 2) Reduce your emissions as much as you possibly can

Stage 3) Compensate for your unavoidable emissions by investing in projects that can capture and store an equivalent quantity of carbon in natural or man-made ‘sinks.’

Today this usually means trees, plants, biodiversity and soils, but soon, as the technology becomes available, it will also mean innovative Carbon Capture and Storage too.

Stage 1 – Carbon calculation

A carbon footprint is defined as the total emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent (the ‘e’ means that other greenhouse gasses are also accounted for). If you want to know how your personal footprint compares to the average, you can find out in a couple of minutes by running the UBoC Carbon Calculator (but please read on first).

Stage 2 – Carbon reduction

We may be able to help you to decide how best to reduce your footprint, though businesses and organisations may be better off approaching a specialist consultancy as we only have the resources to  provide general advice.

For people and households there is a wealth of advice online, such as this and this. The top tips are to fly very little (if at all), eat less meat – especially red meat (veg or vegan is best, but try to avoid crops that are causing deforestation), buy green energy, choose local and low-carbon products, insulate your house really well, wear warm clothes indoors so you can turn your heating down to 17 or 18 degrees, drive as little as you can, and don’t use the internet any more than you really have to.

Stage 3 – Carbon compensation by tree planting

Finally, we can help you to compensate for your ‘unavoidable emissions’ while supporting worthwhile projects in the UK and in the tropics (where, pound for pound, your investment should deliver much more storage to that delivered by UK trees, possibly up to ten times more). The schemes we work with all sequester carbon – that’s a prerequisite for our involvement – but they also protect existing greenery, promote biodiversity and ecosystem services, conserve water, and support local communities by providing food, employment, wood crops, fuel and other benefits for local people.

There are two basic approaches, accredited ‘Carbon Offsetting‘ and ‘Approved Tree Planting’ (by UBoC) in good schemes that are not officially accredited – and in each case you can plant in the tropics (better for the climate) or the UK (possibly better for you if you want to be involved in the planting).

Option 1: ‘Carbon Offsetting

This is an official process that guarantees (with caveats) that you’ll capture a specific amount of carbon when you purchase carbon credits (one credit represents one tonne of carbon) in a certified scheme. So, technically, we should only use the term ‘Offsetting’ when we are referring to this type of scheme. To achieve certification, an Offsetting project has to be able to guarantee that, among other things, their trees will live long enough to deliver the promised carbon, and this protection naturally costs money. So if you decide to invest in a certified Offset scheme, you may wind up spending more money on peace of mind and less on actual trees.

Note that when you support a project or compensate for carbon emissions through UBoC, 100% of your donation goes to the forest project and we often encourage you to give directly to the project. We can afford to do this as our running costs and research are supported by separate donations and lots of good will!  Please get in touch if you would like to donate to either a project or our research. 

We currently support three Offset schemes, but only retire credits on behalf of corporate and research partners. If you would like to purchase carbon credits though us, please get in touch.

Offsetting in the tropics

We hold Plan Vivo credits for Trees of Hope in Malawi (this scheme is coming to an end), and VCS credits for the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, in the MJUMITA Community Forest REDD+ scheme.

Because retiring credits involves a lot of paperwork, people using the calculator are encouraged to offset directly with Tree-Nation’s CommuniTree project in Nicaragua, which offers Plan Vivo credits.

Offsetting in the UK

We work with Forest Carbon’s Carbon Club which uses the Woodland Carbon Code.

Option 2: Approved Tree Planting.

By ‘approved’ we are referring to uncertified schemes which we feel are likely to capture a good quantity of carbon, while also offering strong co-benefits. But please bear in mind there’s no guarantee here. Your trees will be at some risk of being cut down or failing for whatever reason sooner than we’d like, because the protection afforded by offset accreditation is not in place. Or they may be counted as someone else’s carbon if they are later certified for carbon credits, thus negating your carbon investment.

Tree planting the tropics

We work with the International Tree Foundation and the non-offset forests at Tree-Nation – of which there are many, and others you’ll find around this website.

Tree planting the the UK

There’s a similar range in the UK, especially Restoring Hardknott ForestTrees For Cities, Treemendous York, Colne Valley Tree People and other community groups associated with the White Rose Forest. (If you’d like to support a scheme near where you live, please get in touch).

There is more about all this once you have run the calculator.

Calculate your carbon footprint

Leeds4Trees4_lines_butterflyAs people often prefer to plant in the UK when their money might be most effectively spent in the tropics, we are currently working to establish a new concept: Forest Twinning, in which two areas from different biomes (usually UK temperate forest and tropical rainforest), are twinned – providing opportunities for new beneficial direct relationships between the two ‘siblings,’ while also allowing supporters to invest in both environments, tailoring their support to deliver optimum impact and outcomes for all three parties.

 Download our leaflet on Forest Twinning.

United Bank of Carbon is a not-for-profit collaboration between businesses and environmental scientists, which protects and restores forests and other greenery, through environmentally and socially-responsible partnerships with local communities. We undertake research, support forest and woodland projects in the UK and the tropics that deliver CSR/PR benefits, provide carbon reduction advice, and help to arrange compensation for unavoidable carbon emissions