New year, new offsetting

3 February 2015

Interested in offsetting your business or personal carbon emissions in 2015? Find out how you can calculate your carbon emissions and offset them using our simple tools.

Flying to that conference, taking the car to see family at Christmas ….. we encourage minimising the use of fossil fuels, and using renewable sources where possible, but we know that sometimes it’s unavoidable.

At SBN we calculate our carbon emissions each year and then offset them. Why not do the same? It’s a great way of raising awareness of your personal or business’ carbon footprint (you can set a goal of reducing it each year), and there are many associated benefits of offsetting through our flagship stream-bank planting programme, the Million Metres Streams (MMS) project.

See below for our simple three-stage process to calculate and offset your emissions.

Jon Brett, co-creator of TetraMap, was concerned about the amount of carbon generated as the result of his overseas flights, so he decided to offset it with MMS and help out the environment at the same time.

“When I look at my annual carbon footprint there is one elephant in the room: overseas flights. The carbon footprint of flying massively outweighs everything else put together,” he says.

He decided to spend the same amount of money on the environment as he does on airfares.

“Valuing carbon this way makes air travel prohibitive enough to rule out non-essential trips and to make me value my environment just as much as the purpose of the travel,” he says.

“This is a Big Shift in commitment to the environment. It is a shift from relying on convenient economics, to simple common sense. As long as the environment is degrading, we have a responsibility to contribute to its rejuvenation.”

You can read Jon’s blog about carbon offsetting here.

If you’d like to calculate your carbon emissions and offset them, simply follow this three stage process.

Step 1 – Calculate your carbon emissions

Calculate your carbon footprint by downloading the Annual Carbon Emissions Calculator from our website. Designed by Catalyst Ltd, it’s a simple tool to help businesses and households estimate their carbon emissions. It’s free to use.

Step 2 – Decide on a value for your carbon

Calculations vary, so decide on a value that makes sense to you. You could base it on the market price of carbon* or alternatively take into account the sequestration rate of native trees,in which case we suggest  using the Carbon4Good rate of $35 per tonne of carbon**.

Step 3 – Offset your carbon emissions 

Visit the Million Metres Streams website and make your donation by purchasing metres of stream planting, at a cost of $36 per metre. Although this is a voluntary, non-certified offsetting programme, there are a number of benefits including being a tax deductible donation, improving water quality, restoring biodiversity and catalysing community action. Find out more below.

Find out more

Changes to our offsetting programme

For a number of years SBN has used the Carbon4Good programme as a voluntary and unaccredited carbon offset tool for businesses, where carbon is offset into local tree planting projects across New Zealand.  We are now directing businesses and individuals who want to offset their emissions to the Million Metres Streams (MMS) project, instead of Carbon4Good. The benefits of MMS are that it is a tax deductible donation, inspires community planting, enhances biodiversity and improves water quality, in addition to carbon offsetting, and the novel crowdfunding reaches out to a wider audience across New Zealand.   

What is the Million Metres Streams project?

MMS is New Zealand’s first conservation crowd-funding website, developed by SBN in collaboration with Enspiral, which aims to help restore the health of New Zealand’s waterways by speeding up and scaling up riparian (stream bank) planting. Donors purchase riparian planting by the metre, and the money is allocated to stream restoration projects that are listed on the website. As the name suggests, the goal is to reach a million metres of planted stream banks and beyond. Check it out:

Why are we running the Million Metres Streams project?

In 2014 we launched MMS as our response to pressing issues of improving water quality, enhancing biodiversity, and developing a community response and call to action to protect and enhance waterways across New Zealand. We consider that every New Zealander has a role to play in restoring the health of our waterways and that MMS is a simple and direct method to enable businesses and individuals alike to do their bit. 

What’s the difference between Carbon4Good and the Million Metres Streams project? 

Carbon4Good planted native trees on at risk land (such as hill country gullies prone to erosion).  The Million Metres Streams project plants native grasses, flaxes and trees along stream banks to support our waterway health.  The carbon sequestration calculation used in Carbon4Good was updated and amended to take into consideration stream bank planting. The outcome of the review was that carbon sequestration for riparian planting erred on the side of caution and was consequently costly.  As sequestration was not the primary focus of MMS we have not attributed a carbon figure per metre of planting, though of course sequestration still occurs.

What’s happening with carbon offsetting in NZ?

The New Zealand context of carbon offsetting is undergoing some changes, that are not that clear nor easy to navigate for businesses. The calculation that we’ve been using for Carbon4Good would therefore have needed to alter in 2015 to reflect these changes.  Meanwhile, we feel there are many benefits to offsetting carbon via MMS, which considers carbon along with biodiversity, habitat restoration, water quality improvements and community action to catalyse change along our stream banks.  

Is the offsetting accredited? 

The offsetting is voluntary and not accredited but it is traceable down to the land owner and stream, and we can even share the GPS coordinates!  We work directly with field partners (regional councils, QEII Trust etc) so we know the projects are verifiable and accountable. Simultaneously we are working with businesses to understand the best way to offset and trade carbon, given the lack of national guidance and certainty on the issue.  We are happy to discuss this in more detail with you, please just ask. 

You can find out more about the future of carbon reduction in NZ business by attending an event we’re hosting in Auckland on 4 February, at which five experts will discuss offsetting options.


* Carbon prices can range from as little as US$1 – 4 per tonne of carbon in Mexico to as much as US$168 per tonne in Sweden1. At the time of writing a New Zealand Unit (NZU) is NZ$5.95 – 6.052

1:  State and Trends of Carbon Pricing. May, 2014. World Bank Group Climate Change, Washington DC.
2: 28 January 2014 from

** Our information suggests that seven NZ native trees absorb one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, assuming a planting distance of one every two metres and a lifespan of 200 years. With trees priced at around $5 each, that makes $35 per tonne of CO2. This is the rate used by Carbon4Good until December 2014.

However, there is a caveat on applying that formula to MMS plantings, as every metre (1 m long x 6 m wide) of MMS planting has four woody trees planted at a distance of one a metre***. So direct comparisons are difficult to make, which is why $35 a tonne of CO2 is only a suggestion.  From our updated calculations we know riparian planting is likely to be more costly than this and we are continuing to look into the most up to date cost of riparian sequestration.

*** The exact number of trees planted through the Million Metres Streams project will vary slightly depending on factors such as the terrain and stream width.