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Carbon Offset A Campervan

What Can I Do To Carbon Offset My Campervan?

Here at Cambee we produce campervans. Beautiful, shiny campers with lovingly handcrafted interiors for you to set off and enjoy the world with your family.

We have been doing this for more than 10 years now and produce around 30 a year. At the last count we had built over 300 campers here in Devon.

OK, so what’s the point Matt? Well, the point is that there is an environmental cost to all these campervans!

It’s not all bad, as my piece on How Green is a Campervan? explains, but I still need to address the underlying problem of building and driving carbon-burning campervans.

I know this is not what you want to hear from a camper converter – Are these people mad? Surely, they want to sell campervans, don’t they?

Well yes, we do. So how is it possible to square this circle; big, shiny, carbon-producing, diesel-burning campervan and the beautiful environment we all want to enjoy?

It turns out there are lots of things we can do

Carbon offsetting the build and use of the campervan is just the beginning. You can also:

  • Invest in green technology
  • Replace your car with a campervan
  • Explore locally instead of flying around the world
  • Engage with wildlife organisations that promote biodiversity
  • Rent your campervan out with companies like Camptoo or Quirky Campers, so others can choose not to fly too
  • And lastly, maintain your camper really well so it lasts for years to come. This way it can also be used by future generations who might convert it to electric or hydrogen when the technology becomes affordable. Campervans have a high residual value, so you won’t be throwing good money after bad as you might with a car.

Let’s take a look at one of the easiest of those choices – carbon offsetting.

Using natural ecosystems and processes, it’s possible to balance the amount of carbon emissions that your life and activities give rise to. There are now many companies that can take your carbon footprint and help to reduce it.

The main focus of their schemes is usually planting forests, investing in renewable energy, and promoting technologies which produce sustainable fuels from things like biomass waste and coppicing. All these solutions have pros and cons and there’s undeniably a lot to discuss with each, but for now let’s look at forests.

There are around 3 trillion trees on earth

Each tree is taking carbon out of the atmosphere and turning it into growth. That’s awesome!

But it’s not only the tree that does this, the soil and surrounding biomass also capture carbon, and in some landscapes more than the trees themselves. Soil can only do this when it isn’t disturbed by agriculture and ploughing, so trees help to lock carbon into the ground as well as into their structure.

Trees also have other benefits, they moderate the air temperature, create micro climates and act like sponges in heavy downpours, slowing the rainwater and protecting low lying areas from flooding – what’s not to like!

The big question is how many trees do we need to offset the production of a campervan?

The answer depends on how long you would like the offset to take.If you are happy for the offset to take 30 to 40 years then planting 20 or 30 broadleaf trees in the UK will be enough. This can cost as little as £5 per tree adding up to a total cost of £100 – £150.

If you would like the offset to happen over a 10 year period then you will need to plant 33 times more trees because the first 10 years of broadleaf growth is comparatively slow. This would cost approximately £3300.

A happy medium might be to offset over 20 years, which would require 220 trees at a cost of £1100.

This may seem expensive. But the good work of the trees will continue long into the future. After 30 years they will have captured the equivalent of three times the emissions of the build of your camper.

There are other benefits too. Indigenous trees provide a new habitat and food source for wildlife, they filter pollution, their root systems reduce flooding and help to protect the soil from erosion, and they provide locally sourced materials for any number of industries.

Still, £1100 is a big cost on top of an already substantial campervan budget

Perhaps a more cost-effective method of recapturing or offsetting carbon emissions is to look overseas to developing countries.

Here the costs of new plantations are lower, trees grow faster and the benefits of green energy production and carbon capture technology can have a much greater positive impact on local communities.

In some regions, putting your money into wind farms or bio-digesters could cost as little as £150, for the same results in a shorter period.

How do I choose a carbon offsetting company?

With so many options out there, deciding where to invest can feel daunting but after a lot of research we chose to create a Climate Positive Workforce using Ecologi, who offer certified Emission Reductions using a mix of tree planting and technology applications.

We really like their transparent, affordable systems created to provide multiple benefits. One example we love provides bio-digesters for communities to recycle their waste, including animal waste, which produce gas for clean, carbon-free cooking. By freeing these communities of their dependence on kerosene for cooking, the scheme promotes much healthier homes and lives.

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And in our case, the tree planting in Madagascar not only helps to restore a threatened habitat, but also reduces soil erosion and creates much needed local employment at the same time.

 

So we’ve covered recapturing the carbon relating to the production of the camper, but how about driving it?

In brief, a rule of thumb would be half a ton of carbon per 1000 miles, so 10k would be equivalent to 5 tons. To offset this in broadleaf trees over 10 years would cost £825 per year or 12p per mile. Offsetting over the same period with Ecologi would cost from around £50.

If you would like to offset your camper build, we are happy to contribute! We believe in this so much that we’ll share the cost of the build offset with a 50% contribution.

Just ask about offsetting when you enquire about a conversion.

Note: Whilst writing and researching this page it was impossible to ignore many of the strong opinions about carbon offsetting out there, which made us stop and think more about the content contained here.

After weighing up all the arguments, we have decided that, as a small business finding our way to a zero-carbon future, the best way for us to fulfil our responsibility to our environment, our customers and ourselves, is to offer the information above (as well as on our other Sustainability pages) along with some practical ways in which we can all contribute to a reduction of, or counterbalancing of existing, carbon emissions.

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