Aside from opting for a reusable cup, your impact on the planet and your carbon footprint is probably pretty far from your mind when you pop out for a simple flat white from your local coffee shop – am I right? Or what about when you do your weekly supermarket shop, or order next-day delivery from an online retailer?
Chances are, with the small decisions you make day by day, you don’t consider your carbon footprint. As it happens though, it’s often the tiny decisions that we make and the small actions we take everyday that have the biggest impact on the environment.
Step in Tred, a new debit card made from recycled ocean plastic that not only tracks your spending, but tracks your carbon footprint as well. With Monzo-style notifications, each time you spend on the card, the corresponding app will translate your action into the environmental impact. Dialling in for our chat from a tiny town in the Yorkshire Dales, it’s immediately obvious that friends and co-founders Will Smith and Peter Kirby have huge plans for their green start-up.
Continuing the theme, evidently, the biggest ideas come from the smallest, everyday moments. Sitting in a bar in Glasgow, Will found himself debating the plastic straw in his drink, against his friends’ earlier journey via plane from London to Glasgow. Which one was worse for the environment? Which one has the biggest impact on your carbon footprint?
‘It got us talking about the worst things for the planet – is it the straw, the flights, or is it buying clothes and going to restaurants? It’s really difficult to know where to pay your attention to when living sustainably. It’s like trying to lose weight without having a set of scales, so it’s hard to fight climate change if you don’t know your impact day to day.’
Will tells me that these early debates led him to try and find out what his carbon footprint actually was, but he found it difficult to do. Generic questions on the Internet about how many flights you take a year can only tell you so much, after all. Will decided to hone in on spending, as everything we buy has an impact on the world around us, so he knew it was a way people could track their footprint each day.
The first in the UK, the card could be a game-changer for helping people to make small lifestyle changes and understand the impacts of climate change more easily. They do say that slow and steady wins the race, and there’s certainly an argument that making small, achievable alterations will be more successful in the long run than making big, quick changes that become unrealistic or tiresome over time.
It’s this notion that small steps can lead to big change that is so central to Tred. Both Will and Peter are passionate about the sustainability plight, but don’t want to come across as preachy – it’s all about making green living accessible to all. Once you start seeing how easy it is to track, it becomes something that can seamlessly fit into your everyday life. In fact, you could do it as soon as tomorrow. They talk to me about how people really got behind the plastic straw, plastic bag and the keep cup movements, so both Will and Peter feel there is a real audience for the card out there.
‘We’re trying to make the climate fight positive, as it’s a super doom and gloom space. We want to help everyone understand his or her carbon footprint, and then prioritise small changes,’ Will tells me. ‘We want to bring sustainability into the mainstream so we’re not going to tell people to never go on holiday, we want to focus on tangible things that everyone can do.
‘When we started testing people’s reactions to our idea, it became clear that 90% of people don’t know what their carbon footprint is. No one knew it, everyone wanted to know it, and everyone wanted suggestions about how to be more eco-friendly. So, quickly we realised that people do want to live sustainably; it’s just that it can be difficult to know what to do. People want actionable steps.’
Will and Peter are hopeful that Tred fills the gap. And the model is fairly simple – the algorithm does all the hard work for you. So, how exactly does it work? With pioneering technology that has been developed over the last 12 months, the pounds that you spend will be converted into kilograms of carbon emitted. Each type of purchase generates a different amount of greenhouse gas and has its own unique impact on the environment. The algorithm analyses every purchase you make and categorises every transaction. This information is then combined with a wide variety of data sets, which allows them to translate it into its carbon emissions.
‘We wanted to reduce people’s carbon footprint in the first place and then increase how much C02 is being captured through tree planting. There is some money that is generated through card spend for the actual card company, and we put a percentage of that back into reforestation,’ explains Peter. ‘Hopefully, there’ll be a positive feeling that every time you tap, you are planting trees and reinvesting in the planet.’
At the end of each month, customers will be encouraged to offset their footprint via a certified tree-planting scheme in Scotland. Tred provides a personalised offsetting plan, so as your monthly emissions change so does the amount you offset. It’s really quite dynamic, something that makes the card unique and stand out. It gives you a detailed breakdown showing you where your impact is greatest and helping you change your lifestyle choices towards a more sustainable way of life.
‘If you’ve had an eco month, we’ll calculate your footprint and plant a few trees,’ says Will. ‘If you’ve gone on holiday and done a round-the-world cruise, we’ll plant a lot more.’ Carbon offsetting, at the moment, is really static, a set amount that doesn’t equate to anything personal, so with Tred, Will and Peter wanted to make it bespoke and central to the consumer journey.
‘We’re trying to bring personalisation to climate change. If you’re making changes to your lifestyle, you want something to tell you that it’s improving,’ continues Peter. ‘We’ll be able to track your carbon footprint coming down if you make the correct changes, so you’ll be able to see it too.’ Their plans don’t stop at the debit card either, and the boys hope to open Tred up to incorporate green investment schemes too in the near future. ‘The expanse of where we can get to with it is huge,’ beams Will.
Watch this space.