The official GreenPower Program is managed by the government and lets Australian consumers choose to displace their electricity usage with certified renewable energy, which is added to the grid on their behalf. When you choose GreenPower, your retailer is has to purchasing the equivalent amount of electricity from accredited renewable energy generators i.e. wind, solar, water and bioenergy.
While the electrons that go to your house won't be directly from solar/wind farms, your retailer must have enough renewable energy to power people who choose GreenPower - and the Generation Certificates to prove it. If you're on the NEM there's a easy graphic which explains how this works. If you live in WA a very similar set up is in place, except they're called Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Both schemes are audited to ensure that the renewable energy you're paying for is fed into the grid.
The Department of Energy and Environment March 2019 report on Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows that electricity generation accounts for nearly 1/3 of Australia's total emissions. This is why we believe switching to GreenPower is one of the most influential things you can do.
By choosing GreenPower your electricity usage will have net zero green house gas emissions. Not only that, but you are sending a strong signal to the market (and politicians) that there is a demand for these clean products and you are also refusing to pay for a fossil fuel product. You are also helping to create jobs and support businesses in these sectors.
Depending on your energy use, renewable power could be more affordable than you think - it could cost as little as a cup of coffee a week. But it depends on your energy use. If you have a large family, or use a lot of energy it could be a lot more. Your retailer should be able to give you an estimate but the government sponsored GreenPower website advises between 5-8c extra per KWh if you choose the 100% Green Power option. If 100% renewable energy is beyond your budget, most retailers will let you pick a 10%, 25% or 50% option. This way you you are still making a difference and telling the market that there is a demand for cleaner products.
Go to Synergy's website and log into your account with your username and password.
If you're with Synergy but don't have an online account register for one using your email and account number (on your last bill)
Under the "Account" tab, look at the "Manage your account" section and click "Modify" on the "Green energy" option.
Follow the instructions to set up Green energy on your account.
Choose between "EasyGreen" and "NaturalPower". Both options require Synergy to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) on your behalf. While the electrons that go to your house won't be directly from solar/wind farms, Synergy must have enough renewable energy to power people who choose these options - and the certificates to prove it.
EasyGreen is based on a fixed dollar amount - it's won't fluctuate with your electricity usage.
NaturalPower is based on a percentage of your use - so it will fluctuate.
We recommend Natural Power.
The setup tool will show you what Green energy will add to your bill. We recommend doing Natural Power at 100% - depending on your energy usage this could be as cheap as a cup of coffee a week - but this can be adjust it to suit if your household is large or particularly energy hungry. You only have to contribute what you can afford and every bit helps.
In Australia, superannuation - commonly known as ‘super’, is a compulsory retirement fund system where employers put money aside into a into a fund, where it’s invested on the employees behalf, to earn returns and grow the employees savings. The employee can then access the money once they reach retirement age and stop work. You can find out more here.
If your country doesn't have such a system the ideas discussed are still applicable to any investments or savings you may have.
According to The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Australians collectively have $2.9 trillion stashed in our superannuation accounts. This is more than Australia's GDP. Imagine the impact of all that money invested for good.
Fossil fuel projects are expensive, so companies need loans from the banks to start new ones. By choosing socially responsible investments, you make make it harder for fossil fuel companies to get a loan and easier for their renewable competitors.
This action uses market forces to create demand for sustainable investment products and shares in sustainable businesses and reduces demand for shares in businesses with a large carbon footprint.
Divesting away from fossil fuels also sends a strong message to companies and governments about community expectation and may expedite action on climate change.
The fastest, easiest, least complicated way to make your superannuation more socially responsible is to stay with your current fund, but change your investment options. Nearly every fund has one these days. All you have to do is log into your account and change your options online. Give your fund a call if you need help.
There is a major down side to this approach: the quality of your current fund's socially responsible option (and even your fund itself) may be bad. By 'bad' we mean that:
If either of these are the case you may seriously want to think about switching funds.
Note: if you are tempted to switch super funds, seek personal financial advice first as there may be insurance and tax consequences to consider.
Let's look at the first point - what makes a 'good' fund:
The Barefoot Investor has a great, independent, easy to understand book on general finance. For superannuation he says you want a low cost index fund (a fund with low fees, that automatically tracks the stock market, rather than being actively managed). While the year on year trends differ, overtime these types of funds tend to give you the best return. As a rule of thumb you want to be charged less than 0.85 per cent a year in fees and you want to be indexed. Google "[The name of your fund] + PDS" to see your funds Product Disclosure Statement to see how your current fund measures up.
Now let's look at the second point- what makes an option 'socially responsible':
This part is remarkably tricky to work out as described here and here. Bottom line is there is no set definition of 'ethical', 'green', 'socially responsible' or 'sustainable'. The best thing available is accreditation from the RIAA (Responsible Investment Association Australasia). The accreditation isn't perfect as a fund can be accredited with “excluding fossil fuels” but still earn up to 20% of its revenue from fossil fuels. This isn't necessarily as misleading as it seems, because it means the fund can invest in a hydro plant that falls back to a gas generator when rainfall is low, but read the fine print or give the fund a call. Accreditation is voluntary, so some of the largest funds ethical or socially responsible options don't turn up. Still the RIAA data base is a good place to start. Otherwise Market Forces and Super Switch are both good resources to get an easy breakdown of super fund investments. Super Switch looks at percentage of fossil fuel investment but Market Forces looks more broadly at weather a company's actions are in line with the Paris agreement.
So with this in mind - you can either:
Either options is going to be better than if you'd done nothing at all and gone with the default fund option, so pick what fits your personal circumstances. Again: if you are tempted to switch super funds, seek personal financial advice first as there may be insurance and tax consequences to consider.
If you're prioritizing being in a 'good' fund consider:
The idea here is that your choosing a fund that lines up as close as possible to the above description of a 'good' fund and then picking their socially responsible option. The funds are loosely based on the barefoot investor recommendations but the 'Sustainability' credentials of the options aren't perfect - both invest in fossil fuels to some degree, but exclude the sectors with the largest carbon footprint.
If you're prioritizing being in a 'socially responsible' fund consider:
These recommendations are based on an article on CANSTAR comparing ethical fund performance (published 13 Aug 2019), the funds were then cross checking against the RIAA database to make sure fossil fuels were excluded from the 'ethical' funds. The idea here is that your prioritizing ethical/socially responsible funds and then picking out the top performers.
Socially Responsible Investment is the least intuitive of our recommendations and the most controversial. We have included a more detailed discussion of the evidence behind the the recommendation here under our section "More Detail".
Day to day we engage in activities, like driving a car, that create emissions like CO2. These emissions have been shown by science to be contributing to climate change. The idea with carbon offsetting is that you do something (like planting a tree) that removes CO2 from the atmosphere so your net emissions are zero. By measuring your emissions you can calculate your 'carbon footprint'. You can then pay a carbon offset organisation to reduce emissions elsewhere in the world, either through planting trees or through rolling out cleaner technologies that avoid emissions.
If you're Australian:
According to the Department of Environment and Energy report on National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Australians have per capita emissions of 21.4 t of CO2 equivalent each year. This includes all emissions (including industrial emissions) divided evenly among the population.
Using this figure means that you're taking responsibility for not just your personal emissions, but for your 'share' of emissions created during industrial activities that contribute to GDP.
If you live somewhere else in the world:
There's a wikipedia article which lists per captia emissions. While this won't be as accurate or as up to date as an official national report, it's a good guide and will suit your purposes.
Or take the personal approach:
On the one hand, national emission figures are great, because they are easy to calculate and are the simplest way to make sure we don't 'forget' the emissions from farming and industry. On the other hand, if you've made significant adjustments to your lifestyle and have already done "Step 1 Green your Power" we can understand why you might be tired of carrying those who aren't making an effort.
If you'd prefer to only offset your personal emissions (and if this motivates you to lower your personal emissions even further - go for it!) then you can calculate them using the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) ecological footprint calculator. We recommend this calculator because it is the simplest and most intuitive to use. But if you would prefer a more precise and exacting calculator then the Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund has a great one.
A lot of people want certainty that their money is being used to offset carbon effectively. To try and give people this reassurance various standards have been developed (a bit like what's in place for fair trade or organic food). These system include:
While these certification aren't fool proof, they give you confidence in the offset.
Specifically regarding tree planting it is important that the following questions be asked:
To find out more about quality tree planting check out this video from Ecosia. While you're at it switch your search engine to Ecosia, and the revenue generated by the search engine will go towards planting trees.
The way we see it you could do one of three things:
1. Prioritizing Donating to Charities
You might want to donate to charities because they are tax deductible. This might be a particularly good option if you are in the top tax bracket (in Australia for every $1 you donate, you can get 47c back on your tax return). You just need to make sure that the organisation is properly registered as a charity and eligible to receive tax deductible donations.
If you're American and looking for a tax deductible fund check out:
If you're Australia you want to find a DGR. As per the Australian Tax office website "A deductible gift recipient (DGR) is an entity or fund that can receive tax deductible gifts." You can go to the ATO website and download the DGR lists to check... but we've done this for you. As of November 2019 this is the list of tax deductible charities that do carbon offsetting:
This was tricky because while a lot of organisations plant trees, we've only listed the charities that do tree planting specifically looking at carbon offsets and allow the general public to offset by the tonne. If you feel we have missed some eligible charities, please drop us a line using the contact form and we'll update our information.
Both CNCF and Green fleet plant native, bio diverse forests, which are independently audited and have insurance or plans in place should the plantings be damaged by fires. While neither hold formal Gold Standard certification, both plant following Gold Standard methodology, or close to it. We recommend the Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund (CNCF) as appear to follow a the standard a bit more closely, also if you are a customer of RAC roadside assistance, you receive 20% discount on car offsets.
2. Prioritize donating to certified offset organisations
The cost involved in Gold Standard certification or even VCS can be prohibitive for charities. As a result there are a more 'Profit for Purpose' style organisations that offer accredited carbon offsets. You could also offset directly from the Gold Standard Website where they have a range of carbon offset products at a variety of price points including some as cheap as $10USD/tonne.
3. Prioritize offsetting the largest amount of carbon at the lowest cost
If you're not worried about tax deductions or certification this might be the option for you. On the plus side it's far cheaper, on the down side it is far more difficult to verify the effectiveness and legitimacy of these offset organisations. According to this study the two best 'bang for buck' carbon offset organisations are:
Or you may want to donate through the United Nation Carbon Offset Platform which has offsets available from ~$0.32USD/tonne.
As you can see these charities are an order of magnitude more effective and have been independently reviewed and recommended. If you wanted to have the biggest impact for the lowest cost, these would be the charities to choose.
Easy Carbon Solutions started on the 3rd of November 2019 in Perth, Western Australia. A few friends (with backgrounds in engineering, geology, environmental sampling, education and advocacy) went out to lunch and talked about climate change.
The regular advice on what people can do to prevent climate change (turning off the lights, taking public transport etc.) helps - but these little steps only have a little impact. We should still do the little steps, because the combined effect can be huge, but the big steps people can take don't seem to be talked about.
That night Easy Carbon Solutions was born, focusing on the big steps people can take to reduce their carbon footprint. We wanted to put forward solutions that were easy, quick to achieve and had a meaningful impact.
We are completely independent and we're not paid to recommend or mention any organisation. Easy Carbon Solutions is entirely researched, written and financed by volunteers. These are our own views, which we try to support with as much evidence as possible, but you are encouraged to do your own research too. Let us know if we have missed something or if you have additional information to share.
The information in this website and the links provided are for general information only and should not be taken as constituting professional advice from the website owner. Easy Carbon Solutions is not a financial adviser. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to check how the website information relates to your unique circumstances. Easy Carbon Solutions is not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise arising from the use of, or reliance on, the information provided directly or indirectly, by use of this website.