Offset your carbon footprint locally

A new green venture is set to launch in the Cayman Islands. Island Offsets aims to offer everyone the ability to offset their carbon footprint through local initiatives.

The not-for-profit company is awaiting its regulatory approval and will be able to start supporting local carbon reducing projects as soon as it is granted charity status.

Like many green ventures Island Offsets is driven by personal desire to do something for the environment. The organisation is the brainchild of Catherine Childs, who says her educational background with a Masters in environmental science played a crucial role.

“My motivation with this project is that I am educated about the effects of climate change and I live on this Island, which I love, which has an average elevation of 7 ft and I have two small children. So I could just not do it.”

The idea derived first and foremost from personal experience.

“I have always wanted to do more to reduce my carbon footprint and I felt very powerless to do anything about it, especially in the Cayman Islands. A lot of people live in rentals or in condominiums where they don’t have a lot of power to make changes to their place.”

Islands Offsets’ aim is to support local projects, which are able to offset carbon emissions. Childs believes it is the perfect venture for a place like Cayman. Not only are a lot of people educated about the environment and the effects of climate change, everybody also has to leave the Islands by plane, she says, which makes illustrating the process of offsetting carbon emissions easier.

“So if you flew to New York and your carbon footprint for the flight is 2t of CO2, you can purchase an offset that would prevent 2t of CO2 from ever entering the atmosphere for example through solar panels or the prevention of deforestation or the changeover to more efficient light bulbs,” she explains.

There are projects that may take the 2t of CO2 out of the atmosphere and those that prevent them from ever going in. “It is an exchange.”

While these offsets are available from some airlines after the purchase of a ticket, they do not generally offer it for flights from the Cayman Islands.

Additionally, the main purpose of using Island Offsets, however, will be that the offset projects are local.

“They will be benefitting the local community. There are so many projects that environmental groups would love to do but there is no money out there for them to do them. So this is a way to make these things happen.”

Another advantage of local projects is that people can see what is happening with their money, verify and feel comfortable about buying carbon offsets.

Three projects are envisaged at the moment. The first is a project in cooperation with the National Trust that would enable the Trust to buy land in order to prevent deforestation on the Islands.

“The importance in carbon offsets is to prove additionality, which means it has to be something that would not have happened otherwise,” says Childs. In the case of deforestation it means that the National Trust will be able to say that this land would have been deforested, without the intervention of the project.

To ensure that the trees continue to stand is not just about the carbon in the trees but also that in the soil. “Especially if we are talking about mangroves,” says Childs, “because as soon as you pull the mangroves up all the gases in the soil are released.” In particular methane would be released into the atmosphere, which is 24 times worse than CO2.

Moreover the project would deliver all the added benefits of preserving the eco-system, Childs says.

She also plans a project involving the purchase of solar panels for a local school, which will both reduce the energy used, offset carbon emissions and contribute to the education of future generations.

A third planned project would use the funds paid by customers seeking to offset their carbon footprint to purchase compact fluorescent light bulbs and provide them to low income families who otherwise would not be able to afford them. The CLF light bulbs not only use about 75 per cent less energy, they also last up to 10 times longer than conventional light bulbs.

Partners like the National Trust are very excited about the plans, says Childs. “They can’t wait.”

Currently Island Offsets is waiting for the approval of its charity status before it will be able to take any money and fund those projects.

Then it will target individuals and businesses who would like to make their travels carbon neutral or reduce their carbon footprint in general.

“Once I get the first funds, I can buy solar panels and put them on a local school or give it to the National Trust and people will see it is really happening and making a difference.”


Air travel is one of the major contributors to CO2 emissions. – Photo: File