The Cool Down: Carbon Neutral E-Commerce with EcoCart
Oct 19 2020
This interview is part of a larger article originally published on The Cool Down, a newsletter from Brendan O’Connell focused on climate tech and the people/companies working on building a sustainable future.
Carbon Neutral E-Commerce with EcoCart Founder Dane Baker 🎙️
What led you to start EcoCart?
My partner and I were involved with a prior business. It was an online peer-to-peer rental marketplace business. You can think of it like Airbnb, except instead of renting someone’s home, you can rent their surfboard, snowboard, drone, bike, etc. We built the business because we felt that renting, in stark contrast to consumption, was a far more significant net benefit for the environment, especially with high-plastic items like kayaks. After a while, it just became incredibly complicated and expensive to be a sustainable brand.
What’s your goal for the company?
Our mission here at EcoCart is to make the fight against climate change easy, affordable, and accessible so that everyone can do their part. And that’s the key: everyone. We focus on the convenience part by reducing the friction for both businesses and consumers to opt-in and participate in this community. We thought that was the best way to grow and make a significant impact.
How does the Shopify app work today?
EcoCart offers a Shopify app that any merchant can install in their store that enables customers to opt into carbon neutral orders at checkout. Just as each order has a unique carbon footprint, the price of each offset is also unique. We look at a few factors in Shopify’s backend with each order, such as the shipping distance, package weight, product type, and run them through our algorithm to compute a dollar amount for the customer to opt into. Generally speaking, it’s under a dollar, so it’s incredibly affordable. We then direct the money towards certified carbon offset projects like planting trees and building wind farms.
Can you talk a bit about the carbon offset projects you buy credits from?
All of the projects that we look at are certified by the six major carbon standards. After that, we hand-select projects that fit our criteria and are the most impactful. Right now, we work with three projects, which is intentional because we want to be incredibly selective. When you buy a carbon offset, you’re buying one ton of carbon reduction from the environment. At their core, that’s what all these projects do. But the projects that are really special to us are the ones that have an element of social good as well. This could be protecting the habitat of an endangered species or creating local jobs in a developing nation. In addition to that, we want to be as geographically diverse as we can because supply chains are incredibly spread out around the world, and we want to be as close to the source as possible.
How challenging is it to estimate the carbon footprint of each product?
At its core, it is an estimation. We cannot possibly know every aspect of that product and how it gets to the customer’s doorstep. However, we think it is the most accurate estimation that we can come up with. Before launching the product, we spent months coming up with a robust back-end database of product types and associated emissions. We started with the Higg Index and then layered in industry-specific lifecycle analyses. We also spoke with climatology PhDs. Long term, the more customers that we have, the more accurate our database gets.