(Can We) Compensate
We got mail today from The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation: a certificate to thank us for conserving 1700 square meters of primeval forest in Enontekiö, Finnish Lapland.
We did this for a good reason. We owe this.
Let me explain: The base layout for our company was laid during a refuge in Enontekiö in 2016 and, despite our mothership being in
Helsinki, our company is still registered in Enontekiö to respect the inspiration given by Lapland's nature and silence.
Even the company name has its roots in Lapland: in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park there is a tiny hut called Montell Wilderness hut, Montellin maja.
Since 2016 we have grown to a group of 24 passionate professionals from all over the world. This spring our team put on snowshoes and
hiked up the steep snow slopes to the winter wonderland of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park to reach the Montell Wilderness hut,
the birthplace of Montel Intergalactic.
While enjoying the snowy winter wonderland we had a bit mixed feelings. Perhaps this amazing place might not be the stunning white
snowland in the future, and we are part of the reason why.
Flying and buying forest
Even though we made very early on the decision of taking a train to Lapland instead of flying, we did make some compromises: our
Argentinian team member did not embark on a ship for crossing the mighty Atlantic but did indeed fly to Helsinki. Also, two of our
Finnish workers flew from Helsinki to Kittilä to join the company trip with a tighter schedule.
To compensate for the emissions caused by these flights I reached out to The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation asking how much
forest we need to conserve to compensate the CO2 emissions caused by these flights. This is the answer we got in a nutshell:
The rough estimates are that for 1 000 kilograms of CO2 to be absorbed into old forested area (vegetation and soil), 1 000 m2 of land covered with primeval forest should be conserved. That costs about 500 euros.
We were apologized by the foundation's executive director Anneli that the estimates they give are a lot more expensive than the sales
prices the airway companies are offering. No need for apologies, the Earth is not on sale. We were also advised that this topic
still needs a lot more research for us to get more accurate estimates.
However, using the existing scientific knowledge, the foundation's head of conservation Anna was able to give us estimates by
calculating the CO2 footprint using a calculator by ICAO. Our flights were estimated to produce 1658 kilograms of C22. Thus, to compensate for the emissions of these flights, we needed to conserve approximately 1700 m2 of forest from Lapland.
So that is what we did with our green hearts panting. And with our brain saying, this is not enough.
It's not just what the mailman brought to us, but also the late news about the new foundation Compensate has brought the
responsibility, climate and compensations to the lips of our team members, as well as to the public discussion.
Topic of compensations and climate awareness is very important, but it also raises mixed feelings and questions: Is it right to
compensate with money the unsustainable habits we have? Should we even be openly talking and writing about this small environmental
act, as we sure don't want to come out as one more green washer.
Trying to clarify the mixed feelings
We as a company must act responsibly. We want to, yet still lack knowledge, courage and determination to do this thoroughly.
We usually avoid travel and have a very pro-remote work culture. That, and the act of conserving forest to compensate CO2 emissions of our own unavoidable (or “unavoidable”) flights is a good thing but it is not saving the world, and not even saving our own asses. It is easy to compensate emissions and make charity donations but hard to reformulate our business into something that does absolutely no harm, and preferably even creates some goodness for the Earth.
But what can a small software company do for a more sustainable world? For sure much more than just compensate.