How to drive and be climate positive: an easy way to offset your CO2 emissions from driving.
I was asked how many trees would we need to plant to offset carbon emissions from driving 10,000km. But because different vehicles consume fuel differently – think Mack Truck vs Smart Fortwo – it seems better to focus on fuel.
We want to offset our fuel consumption and make it easy to do it. So let’s do some research.
One minute of research: CO2 emissions from burning one litre of unleaded petrol
Burning 1 litre of unleaded petrol contains 652 grams of carbon. Carbon needs a bunch of oxygen to turn it into CO2, and a burning a litre of unleaded petrol creates 2.31kg of CO2. A litre of diesel emits 2.68kg of CO2 (16% more than petrol) and a litre of LPG contains about 454g of carbon which converts into 1.51kg of CO2 when adding oxygen during burning (a third less than petrol). But let’s work with petrol first.
So 1 tonne of CO2 is emitted from using 433 litres of fuel. So based on my earlier blog calc where we’d plant 18 trees to offset a tonne of CO2 and then triple offset it to be Climate Positive rather than just neutral so we’d be planting 54 trees instead of 18 to triple offset a tonne of CO2 emissions, then that’s 54 trees for 433 litres bought at the pump.
Whatever your car or fuel consumption, that’s 0.125 trees per litre. Which is difficult to plant. But planting 1 tree per 8 litres might be easier. And that’s already triple offset. So let’s work with that.
(Triple Offset means you pay for you and two other people, so you’re not driving neutral, you’re driving positive; climate positive. You’re essentially saving the world more while driving about.)
So my suggestion would be to plant the tree at the time you fill up your car with fuel. Use the Impact Now app by B1G1 and when putting fuel in the car, plant one tree for every 8 litres purchased or part thereof.
You might want to not use your phone right next to the fuel pump, as giant explosions in fuel stations tend to release lots of carbon into the atmosphere. Instead do it at the cash register inside.
So, explosion averted, how many trees do you plant? You’d plant 4 trees if you put in 32 litres or less, and 8 trees if between 33 and 64 litres, 12 trees for 65-96 litres, 16 trees per tank for 97 litres and above. If you’re driving a Mack truck, the tank is 265 litres, so you’d plant 34 trees for a full tank.
Or, if you know the size of your tank, you could avoid calculating anything because I’m about to do all that for you.
What’s the size of my fuel tank in my car / ute / van / truck / motorbike?
Most average cars have a tank that’s about 45-65 litres. So you’d pretty much plant 6-8 trees every time you fill up. 6 trees for a small car, 8 trees for an average-sized car.
A micro-sized car like the Smart Fortwo has a 33-litre tank so you could get away with a smart four-tree fill… unless you pushed your car to the fuel pump in which case you’re up for 5 trees.
SUV tanks are 70-105 litres: small SUV 9 trees, big SUV 13 trees.
Utes 70-80 litres: 9-10 trees.
Vans similar: 9-10 trees per tank please.
Motorbikes 15-30 litres: 2-4 trees per tank would be the range, so just go with 4 trees a tank and consider yourself climate generous and creating good karma to offset your reckless riding.
As mentioned earlier Mack Truck tanks are 70 gallons or 265 litres. Hence the 34 trees for a full tank. (For Americans, 1 gallon = 8 litres. And 1 litre = 1 liter. But it won’t matter in a minute. Read on!)
What if I’m running a fleet of cars in my business?
If running a fleet in your business, calculate total fuel consumption across all vehicles for the period (eg monthly), and divide by 8 to calculate the number of trees. Or if you don’t have access to the volume of fuel and you only have receipts for petrol, sum the total cost of petrol and divide by today’s price per litre to calculate volume. Fluctuations across the month will work themselves out over time.
EASIFY this please, Tim.
To super easify this, every time you fill up your car, no matter how much fuel you’re actually putting in:
Plant 8 trees for an average-sized car. If your car is tiny, 4-6 trees depending on tininess.
Plant 10 trees per tank if you drive a large car, a ute, a van or a small SUV.
Plant 13 trees per tank if you 13 trees if you’re a big SUV or a large 4WD like a Land Rover.
And to easify this for a fleet of cars, count the number of receipts or number of fuel purchase entries and multiply by 8 for cars and 10 for trades vehicles like vans and utes. If your fleet is a mix of cars and SUVs, multiply by 10.
Motorbikes… 4 trees per tank.
Wait, how the heck do I plant a bunch of trees?
Option 1: Buy some baby trees at a tree shop, own some land, and plant them. Cost: A lot more than option 2. Time taken to do this: never. You’re never going to do this. At least not more than once. And you’re not even going to do it once. Do option 2.
Option 2: Join B1G1.com and donate to a worthy cause who plants trees.
On the B1G1 member platform, find worthy causes that plant trees. I found one for $0.40 per tree. More info about that project in the article I linked to earlier. That tree produces fruit for a poor family in Kenya so they have a vested interested in keeping the tree alive and can earn income from the tree’s fruit production while it sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and saves the world. Cost: US 40 cents per tree, so probably well less than $2 per full tank of petrol. As a B1G1 member, 100% of your giving goes to the worthy cause. US$0.40 per tree and planting 8 trees per tank for a normal car adds just $3.20 to your cost of a full tank of fuel. Time taken to do this: less than 2 minutes once you’re a B1G1 member.
As a member of B1G1, you can set up a giving story on the B1G1 platform: “Every time I put petrol in my car, we triple offset the environmental impact because, we plant X trees…” (where X is the number of trees you worked out earlier.) Then at the station, click on the app, choose the giving story, the giving goes into your cart, click pay and boom! …. Not an explosion boom, but a done-because-I’m-awesome boom.
So go on… save the world while driving. Because you can.
Q&A: what about Diesel, Hybrid/Electic, LPG, no car?
1. Using diesel? Instead of a carbon content of 652g/L (unleaded) diesel is 853g/L… and I mentioned the CO2 emissions are 16% more. So with all vehicle calcs above, add one tree per tank. Bikes don’t need to add anything. Giant trucks add 6 if you’re driving a diesel-run semi so you’re up for 40 trees a tank.
2. Using a hybrid or full electric car? Well if using hybrid, when you top up with petrol, it’ll just be less frequently, so no change in the calculation for you. If full electric, then you’ll need to take a look at my article on offsetting your electricity usage…
3. Using LPG? Normal cars and small SUVs, 6 trees per tank instead of 8. Big SUVs 8 trees instead of 12.
4. No car? Do you catch public transport, car apps and taxis everywhere? Me too. While you probably use a combo of bus/train/cab/uber/etc, if you’re more a bus/train-person than a cab-person, 8 trees per month. Love taxis and car apps? 16 trees per month. And there’re three awesome ways to do this.
First: Plant a year’s worth which is 96 trees (US$38.40) if you’re more of a bus or train traveller, or 192 trees (US$76.80) if you’re more of a cab-traveller.
Second: Plant 10 years worth of trees at once because the world needs the trees planted today. So that’s 960 or 1920 trees … at US 40 cents per tree, that’d cost US$384 for 960 trees or US$768 for 1920 trees. And that’s triple offset, so you can ride as a climate positive super angel for a decade.
But then multiplying that by each family member so your whole household is covered can add up to quite a bit. I get it. We’re a no-car family of 3. I’m more cabbish, and the other two are more bussish, so we’d need 384 trees planted a year for the three of us. So I’ve just offset the remainder of this year (96 trees) plus all of next year’s public transport and cab use for us (384 trees) by planting 480 trees in Kenya through a worthy cause on the B1G1.com platform. It only cost US$192 to do that. And it helped a bunch of poor families in Kenya. And now we’re travelling climate positive every day.
Third awesome way to do this: Another option is to set up a monthly auto-giving on the B1G1 platform. For us, that would mean planting 32 trees per month for the entire family, and would cost just US12.80 a month. You could calculate your average fuel usage per month and set up an auto-giving as well. Then you’re triple offsetting your driving too. If you fill up an average-sized car twice a month, then you could set up an 16-tree auto-giving totalling US$6.40 a month. Or if you’re a two-car family with a small SUV and an average-sized car and refill each car twice a month, plus you have two kids who largely use public transport, then you could bundle it all together in an auto-giving. Small SUV 9 trees twice a month, average car 8 trees twice a month totals 34 trees a month, plus the 2 bus-goers at 8 trees per month adds 16 to 34 for the cars and we’re up to 50 trees a month for the family, costing US$20 a month and saving the world and helping the poor all at the same time. Easy.
Final thoughts: might this cost too much?
I realise that adding US$4 per tank of petrol to plant 10 trees to triple offset yourself might feel like a lot. Especially if fuel is one of those commodities that we’re conditioned to find the cheapest price. But if you fill up twice a month, we’re talking about US$8. And that $8 is helping clean the world for at least 10 years (in my calculations I’ve assumed the tree would be chopped down for fuel after 10 years, which is why fruit trees might last even longer), and your $8 also provides income for a poor family, and avoids you having to sell your car and cycle everywhere in your suit.
I guess the bottom line is: if we are indeed causing pollution by our consumption, then undoing that from now on is the responsible thing to do. And if the whole climate thing is a hoax, at least we’re helping poor families get out of poverty. If it’s not a hoax, then triple offsetting means we’re covering the ignorant, ambivalent or deniers and helping save the world despite them. It’s not so much about changing minds that refuse to be changed, but it’s about doing good now anyway. That’s why we’re on board. Hope you will do something too.
Any more questions please ask. But please don’t delay in doing something.