Our Climate Fund
What is it and how does it work?
Simply put, we can't alter where on the planet the majority of components and modules in the solar industry are made, but we can approximate the carbon cost of bringing that here to sell, and we can pay into a fund for every container we move around the planet, and donate that to initiatives that improve the environment or the lives of people more affected by its degradation.
More specifically, we are counting the containers we freight every quarter, and allocating £50 for each one to a fund to be paid out to our chosen initiatives for that quarter.
Which products are you counting towards it?
We realise there is a long way we could go with this, but also that it needs to be practical to implement. It is straightforward to count the containers we ship directly to the UK from China, for instance, whether that's panels, inverters, batteries or other products. So those are included.
We're also including ones that we have bought by the full truck load from Europe, but which have been shipped there first - that is quite often the case with panels.
How did you settle on that amount?
It's not a completely arbitrary figure, but we're also not going to make concrete offsetting claims and we're sceptical when people do. It's possible to estimate fairly closely the CO2 involved in shipping a container from China and there are shipping tools that help do this. (It's about 900kg depending on the ports). As an average, mature trees can capture 20kg per year - but species vary and saplings capture a quarter of that.
Can't we just donate enough to plant sufficient trees to offset the freight emissions - say, 50 trees per container? Well, the cost per tree will vary hugely depending where in the world you plant, and how much you're including in the price (land acquisition? Upkeep?) and there are valid reason to plant in different places, beyond just the most trees per pound spent. This article covers it well. At the top end, people quote £1 per tree so if you want to look at it that way, that's what our fund money could be achieving. But we're happy to trust that reputable organisations will make good use of the funds and do important work in a general sense, and we won't make claims about individual trees planted or offsetting every gram.
Where are the funds going?
We have started with donations to three sources, and will continue to add recipients through the year.
Trees for Life is rewilding the highlands of Scotland with native species, where overgrazing has created barren landscapes.
Eden Reforestation Projects hire and train local people for planting projects in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Nepal, Haiti, Indonesia, Mozambique, Kenya, and Central America.
Operation Wallacea is a conservation, biodiversity and research organisation that partners with schools and universities and to implement research and conservation projects and expeditions around the world.
£550 - Eden Reforestation
£900 - Operation Wallacea
£450 - Trees for Life
Here are the receipts for the Q1 payments.
Can we let our customers know?
Absolutely. We believe that the end customer investing in a renewable energy system, whether that's a home-owner or a business will care about the source of their panels, and about buying them in the most environmentally sound way they can. We're happy to discuss the initiative, or give any more detail to your clients if they're interested.
We're also open to suggestions for projects or organisations to support with the fund. We'd like to alter it from time to time, but also not spread the funds too thin. The fund is likely to grow though - we sold 4 times as many panels in the first quarter of this year as we did the previous one.
What about those t-shirts?
Well, that's a bit of fun to celebrate our relaunched brand, an exciting 15 years in the industry and to make sure that there's another way for money to enter the fund.
All proceeds from the branded range go to the fund, and they are made in the UK from 100% organic cotton, in factories powered by renewables. Rapanui is the company that produces them. The site to get them from is midsummer.teemill.com
You'll see the midsummer team sporting these at trade shows and our training events and open days.