By tracking the carbon footprint of your spending in real time and showing you ways to reduce and offset it, CoGo aims to make ethical living easier. Daniel Fahey proves it
Like most people living in the English confinement, I haven’t been anywhere in weeks except to go shopping or complete my shifts at a café. Opportunities to spend money have been limited. I’ve bought a few birthday gifts, mostly from local independent stores, and yet my carbon footprint this month remains stubbornly high; the same as cutting down 12 trees.
At least that’s according to CoGo, an application that I am using to track the impact my spending has on the environment. Consider me guilty of 718 kg of CO2. That’s like driving from Land’s End to John o’Groats and coming back with 33 spare miles in the tank for detours or roadworks.
The results are so alarming that now I am thinking twice before entrusting my grandmother with the novel by Anton du Beke that she wants for her birthday (not only for environmental reasons, it is true). And I am actively looking for ways to reduce my footprint to 180kg per month, the level the app tells me is sustainable.
Described as “the first ethical recommendation engine,” CoGo was founded by Ben Gleisner, a New Zealand environmentalist who wanted to help consumers shift their spending to companies that shared his values.
“Ben realized that government policy would only go so far in terms of driving change at pace and it is critical to creating this change to empower consumers with better information to make informed decisions for the benefit of the people and the plant. ”Explains Emma Kisby, CEO of CoGo.
“We strongly believe that everyone should progress to a stage where their spending is seen as one vote: one vote for their local economy, one vote for their favorite businesses, one vote for their political leanings, and one vote for the world. I want to see.”
The app offers users a carbon breakdown for their purchases. Image: CoGo
In addition to helping to encourage more sustainable purchases, the app allows users to offset carbon emissions by donating to projects overseen by South Pole, a social enterprise that works with governments and companies to decarbonize the economy.
“All Southpole projects adhere to internationally recognized standards for emission reduction projects and are regularly audited by independent third-party organizations to ensure the additionality and environmental integrity of the projects,” says Kisby.
The CoGo app has been downloaded more than 50,000 times worldwide. And it has over 20,000 UK companies listed on it, all of which have been endorsed by partners like the Carbon Trust, Sustainable Restaurant Association, Social Enterprise UK, Co-Operatives UK and the Living Wage Foundation. That’s a hefty number, but for CoGo to offer full UK coverage, you’ll need a lot more independent stores and major retailers to sign up.
Critical to drive [positive] The change is empowering consumers with better information to make informed decisions.
Back on the app, I get commended for the positive impact I had on the environment in December. Apparently I saved 135kg of CO2 by having a renewable energy tariff and by being a vegetarian (this was an approximation as the app cannot tell, say, if I am buying Peruvian or British blueberries). It also suggests ways that I could further reduce my impact, including composting my food waste and renting clothes instead of buying new. Extending the life of a garment by just three months can lead to a Reduction of 5 to 10 percent in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints.
One of the application companies is Hurr, an online fashion rental platform with a pop-up store in Selfridges, London. “As carbon tracking heats up as an industry, it’s important that Hurr customers can easily understand how CO2 tracking works and the positives of renting rather than buying new,” explains its co-founder, Victoria Prew.
In addition to measuring the carbon footprint of individual users, the app employs sustainability experts and internal data verifiers to monitor the practices of publicly traded companies. They assess whether companies are reducing waste, paying a fair living wage, or donating to social and environmental charities. CoGo also provides feedback to brands to help them improve sustainability.
CoGo empowers consumers by calculating the impact of their purchases in real time. Image: CoGo
“There is an incredible and growing drive on the part of people to want to affect change with their purchasing power and CoGo has found a way to take advantage of this brilliantly,” says Iona Ratcliffe, CMO at Ocean bottle, which makes reusable beverage bottles and finances plastic waste disposal in the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia and Haiti. “Their users are exactly the type of users that represent our community, so it is a good synergy. Plus, it feels great to be a part of the future of commerce. “
In addition to helping the planet, the CoGo app identifies companies that pay staff a Living wage. Raised at £ 9.50 across the UK and £ 10.85 in London in November 2020, Living Wage is a voluntary scheme to help companies pay employees a fair wage. It differs from the government’s national living wage, which is £ 8.72.
“Getting paid real living wage has made a huge difference to me,” says Luke Parker, a bartender at Pembury Tavern in Hackney. “It means that I no longer work constantly just to pay the bills.”
According to CoGo, I spent just 6.3 percent on businesses that paid living wage in December. Here’s something I’ll be able to address soon: my local bookstore is a living-wage employer, and it has a copy of Anton du Beke’s One Enchanted Evening.
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