Treepoints: the startup specialist in tree planting

Want to offset carbon and go green? Treepoints is the company actually doing the tree planting and carbon work for the world's ethical enterprises
BizAge Interview Team
Jacob Wedderburn-Day (left) and Anthony Collias (right)

Hi Jacob! What is Treepoints?

Treepoints simplifies climate action, helping people and businesses to understand their impact on the environment and then do something about it by reducing their carbon footprint. 

The whole aim is to take the headache out of offsetting and in turn rewards people for doing good for the planet. We also provide a simple API integration for businesses to make their products and services climate positive through carbon offsetting, plastic collection and tree planting.  

How did you come up with the idea?

As individuals, we have long been worried about the impact of the climate crisis on our planet. During the pandemic, things fell quiet at Stasher, our travel tech company that connects travellers with an international luggage storage network. We decided that rather than waiting for the world to go back to normal, this was the perfect time to direct our energies towards doing something about climate change. 

From speaking to friends and family, we understood that lots of people are increasingly concerned about the climate crisis, but that knowing how to actually do something meaningful about it is a daunting prospect. How can you be sure that your money is making a positive difference? As just one person, what can you really do? These questions came up time and time again, and from this the idea for Treepoints was born. 

Our goal is to provide everyday individuals and businesses with a simple way to take meaningful climate action. We help people understand their carbon footprint and then do something about it through offsetting their emissions. It is vital to us that climate action is affordable and accessible to everyone - a subscription to offset your entire carbon footprint costs just £3.25 per month. 

Why doesn't tree planting count as carbon offsetting?

Good question! Until they are several years old, baby trees are not mature enough to sequester carbon in large quantities – and those verification programmes which do exist often will not verify carbon removal from trees until they are around 8-to-10 years old. And so that’s why we do not count your trees as contributing towards offsetting your footprint – and only offset using verified carbon credits.

For that reason, when selecting our tree planting and offsetting projects, we aim to balance between the largest possible emissions reduction, whilst maximising our assistance to the development of the world’s most vulnerable communities and ecosystems. We do this by supporting projects with the greatest alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Examples of such projects include our recent support for improved cookstoves to communities in Guatemala. These not only reduced emissions by replacing wood or coal-fired stoves for cooking and heating, but also had wider benefits in reducing local deforestation and improving the health of families by decreasing internal carbon monoxide pollution which is linked to respiratory diseases.

For tree planting, what trees are planted and where?

Our trees are planted by our partners at Eden Reforestation Projects, who have over 16 years of experience in planting an extraordinary 650 million trees. Eden’s mission not only generates essential carbon sinks through the planting and restoration of healthy forests, but also supports vulnerable communities in developing countries, reducing poverty, and improving their quality of life.

All of Eden’s projects work in partnership with local communities, training and hiring local people to plant and maintain their trees. They also support the development of lost or damaged biodiversity, which is not only a central pillar in the lives of local people but also allows life and species to thrive. To ensure these benefits, all Eden’s trees planted are native species to their planted location, maximising their benefit to local communities and ecosystems.

In the past month, Eden’s trees have been planted across Indonesia, Brazil, Madagascar, and Kenya supporting local people through employment opportunities, whilst also creating valuable carbon sinks and ecosystems.

The vast majority of these are mangroves...why? They quester carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests, and contain the highest carbon density of all terrestrial ecosystems.

Can you give us a case study?

Sure, so one of our partner’s, Allies of Skin, plants trees for every purchase of a product on their website using the Treepoints API. That means that for each sale they’ll be reducing their carbon footprint online. Our public dashboard called ‘Showcase’ displays all of their contributions to the planet for everybody to see. They’ve currently planted 23,300 trees and offset 466 tonnes of CO2. Our tech team implements this simple integration into checkout flows, so it all flows seamlessly.  

Is it possible just to offset certain activities?

So we have also created a flight calculator so that people can calculate the impact of their flights and make a one-off donation to offset them. Mile for mile, flying is the worst form of transport for the environment, and we always advise people to avoid flying. But we know that this is not always possible or realistic given the demands of modern life, which is why we have made it easy to offset the entirety of your emissions from flying. You can check out how to here.

We’ve also introduced corporate gifting this festive season. For partners who are conflicted by how to be sustainable with their gifts this year, they now have the opportunity to gift tree plantation. 

How much does it cost to offset carbon?

You can fund high impact carbon offsetting, tree planting and plastic recycling initiatives, from just £3.25 per month through a Treepoints subscription. If you’ve ever looked into carbon offsetting as an individual, for example with Gold Standard, then you’ll know that we offer carbon offsetting at a much cheaper rate. 

The answer to this lies in the volume of carbon offsets we buy. If you’re a bit nerdy about Economics like we are, then you may be aware of the simple rule that the more you buy of something, the closer the price is to the original low wholesale cost. If you want the technical term, this is known as economies of scale. Put simply, buy more and it costs less. Well the same is true of carbon credits.

As an individual, you have to pay a higher price to offset your carbon footprint than you would if you were, say, Amazon, or Google, who are buying much, much larger sums of carbon offsets than you or I would ever do.

When we discovered this, we decided things had to change. We don’t think it’s right that the average person has to pay a premium to fight climate change. So each month, Treepoints pools the donations of our subscribers to purchase carbon offsetting credits in bulk, accessing prices closer to the original wholesale. We then pass this discount directly on to our members. The result is that offsetting with Treepoints your money will go further in fighting climate change than would be possible for an individual.

You help fund plastic waste collection. How does that part work?

Plastic production is forecast to grow by 60% by 2030 and to treble by 2050. This is why we are supporting Plastic Bank to fund the sustainable collection of plastic waste and support impoverished coastal communities around the world. 

How does it work? Plastic Bank sets up collection locations and employs local citizens to manage these ecosystems Residents in the region collect plastic from their environment (particularly from the coastline) and brings it to their local Plastic Bank branch In return for collected plastic they receive money, fresh food, clean water, cellular service, cooking oil or school tuition. The plastic collected through Plastic Bank is recycled and sold at a premium as Social Plastic.

Every Treepoints membership includes preventing plastic from entering the ocean with Plastic Bank. We quantify this in plastic bottles to help you visualise your impact.

Fern membership (£3.25 / month) = 10 plastic bottles collected and recycled per month.

Green membership (£6.50 / month) = 20 plastic bottles collected and recycled per month.

Jade membership (£9.75 per month) = 30 plastic bottles collected and recycled per month.

Our business members are also preventing plastic pollution on behalf of their employees. 

Local commuters = 10 plastic bottles collected and recycled per employee per month.

Regular travellers = 20 plastic bottles collected and recycled per employee per month.

Jet setters = 30 plastic bottles collected and recycled per employee per month. 

Overall, what impact have you made?

Treepoints launched the world's first platform to reward you for reducing your carbon footprint in November 2020, featured in Forbes, FastCompany,  and the Independent. We became a social enterprise and are on a way to becoming a B Corp. We have partnerships with the likes of Patagonia, Lush, Toms, Big Yellow, Allies of Skin and Mindful Chef. Named a finalist in the UK social enterprise awards, and StartUps magazine Hustle awards, we've recently featured in TechRound's 29 Under 29. In total we’ve planted 125K trees and are on the way to planting one million trees.

What is the Treepoints API?

Our API provides a simple and easy-to-use way for you to automate the purchase of trees or carbon offsets directly from your application or service. You can also use our APIs to directly access your impact statistics and gain real-time insights and data on your total impact, total tonnes of CO2e removed, and total number of trees planted.

Tell us about the business model

Initially, we launched in beta, so our first subscriptions were mainly our close friends and family. We then began to utilise our network from Stasher, plus an early referral scheme and we also managed to get some good PR.   

We realised that many businesses were interested in integrating our service via API and direct invoices, so we built a simple backend to facilitate this, as well as a Shopify app (still pending on the public store, but in many cases integrated directly). This ended up being an excellent product addition and was much easier to sell! Revenue jumped significantly since launch with several integrations going live, including a launch with a FTSE 250 company: Big Yellow Storage.

Additionally, we found that leaning into our rewards ecosystem to try and grow our user subscriptions really helped. By pre-purchasing gift cards from relevant partners in exchange for social shares through their large accounts, and gifting these vouchers as sign up rewards to new users we managed to run small campaigns that quickly returned >$1k ARR in single day launches.

Our platform comprises a rewards section, account section, interactive leaderboards, and carbon footprint calculator, which is all available to users through either a personal or businesses subscription service. All this costs less than a Netflix or Amazon account.

Users earn reward points for every monthly donation (and for referring friends and employers). They can then spend these points on our rewards platform with eco-friendly companies like Toms, Patagonia and Hotel Chocolat. If businesses sign up and link their employee accounts, everyone under that account will earn more points

Tell us about the team at Treepoints?

Treepoints was founded by me Jacob Wedderburn-Day and Anthony Collias. We founded luggage storage company Stasher. We are Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs. A big thanks to everyone in our tream who has helped in bringing this vision to life.

Do you feel carbon offsetting and tree planting are now mainstream concepts in the EU and UK?

Carbon offsets have had a difficult history. At their worst, they can greenwash polluting activity and provide no additional reductions in emissions – the internet is full of horror stories about projects gone wrong. But used well, carbon offsets can be a vital contributor to solving climate change. 

Tree planting should definitely be considered a mainstream concept with the outcome with 'the commitment to stop deforestation by 2030' at COP26. Over 100 leaders at the summit signed an agreement to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, pledging around $19.2 billion of funding. Including a surprise commitment by Brazil, whose current government has allowed the continued logging of the Amazon rainforest within its borders. This is the most ambitious agreement to tackle global deforestation yet. It hopes to overcome the failures of the New York Declaration on Forests, which had similarly high ambitions, but only 40 signatures, seeing it fail to have any meaningful impact on reducing deforestation without support from Brazil, China, and Russia.

In addition, the news that the government is seeking to dramatically increase tree planting to 30,000 hectares of new trees in the UK each year, with plantations sequestering carbon and helping the government reach net zero emissions by 2050.

What's the five-year vision for Treepoints?

Our vision for Treepoints is to see it become the TrustPilot-equivalent stamp of Sustainability. People know the brand and expect to see it on products, services, and companies. Individuals everywhere in the developed world understand what carbon offsetting means and offset their footprint with Treepoints. Our goal is to become a household name for sustainability, being the easiest subscription, API integration and tree planting service for individuals and businesses alike.

We will achieve this by continuing to add partners and members to our platform and investing in marketing to reach a wider potential audience, educating people about the importance of offsetting. We also have ambitions to become a source of funding for green projects, able to finance carbon reduction schemes. As a social enterprise, we are committed to reinvesting at least 50% of our profits, and we hope to easily achieve profitability within the next 5 years to be able to start reinvesting in environmental projects, such as carbon capture technology. This will also enable us to have a greater level of personal contact with the projects that we are supporting.  

We also plan to add a green finance plan, helping people to understand the impact of their purchasing habits on the environment. This may include an open banking integration or similar so that people can see the carbon footprint of the products they buy, the journeys they make, and their lifestyle choices.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
February 15, 2022
Written by
February 15, 2022