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Going Green: Trace


Trace lets you offset your carbon footprint – and shows you how much of an impact it makes.

From charging your phone to getting a cup of coffee or driving your car, most of the things we do have some impact on the amount of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) that's being produced and released into the atmosphere. In turn, that has an impact on the climate.

Carbon offsetting reduces this impact by helping to balance out these greenhouse gas emissions. It involves tree-planting or other projects that help remove or neutralise the carbon dioxide and other gases released into the atmosphere.

While airlines offer carbon offsets to travellers for a fee, and big businesses use carbon offsetting as a way to become greener or go carbon neutral, Trace has a slightly different approach: it gives you a way to offset your carbon footprint through a subscription service or one-off payment. It also lets members know exactly how the money is used, by sharing details of the carbon-offsetting projects that are funded by your payments.

We caught up with Trace co-founder Joanna Auburn to learn exactly how it works.

Trace co-founder Joanna Auburn, smiling in a park.

What does your business do and how is it green?

We like to describe ourselves as a profit for purpose company. We're on a mission to help everyone live a carbon-neutral life in an easy and rewarding way. So we provide subscription plans to individuals so that they can offset their carbon footprint. And that's our simplest solution.

We've got three subscriptions for different lifestyles, so you can choose the one that suits you best. And we pull together all of the funds from those members and plant trees and buy carbon credits for them from verified projects around the world.

And the unique thing we do... is that we're really transparent and try to bring the stories from the projects right to you so you really feel your impact.

So we take the payment every month, and then we report back [about] where we've offset your footprint.

So we can we basically come back to you and tell you the stories about the impact that you're having and who you're helping and where it's going and a bit about their journey.”

Joanna Auburn

We try to show you that impact in fun ways as well, like fun analogies to how many miles you've taken off the road or coffees you've saved, and things like that, as well as information about the people that you're actually helping.

So we're doing all the due diligence and work on your behalf to make sure we find great [causes] that we truly believe in and think would provide value to you.

What inspires you and your business to be green?

I guess our business is fundamentally green... in its purpose, and what we do.

What inspired us to start Trace (which was co-founded with Catherine Long) is that a lot of us – most of us actually – care about the environment and believe in climate change. But we often feel like hypocrites, because we can't always do everything that we know we should for the environment.

We have to go places, we have to do things, we have to live our lives. And we understand that that's realistic.

I think what we found with climate change was that there's this really big spectrum of people that are totally disengaged and don't believe in it, right through to the activist kind of persona. And then there are all these people in the middle that want to do the right thing, but know that they're not going to go and live their life in a tree or give up what they're doing completely and fundamentally change their lifestyle.

It's [about] finding a solution that is convenient and simple, but also empowers you to do the right thing and makes you feel good about it.”

Joanna Auburn

We're not a guilt-relieving organisation. So you can't just offset and forget about the rest of your activity. But we understand that some things are just hard to change. And this enables you to do that and still feel okay about it.

Trace co-founders Joanna Auburn (left) and Catherine Long (right).

Trace co-founders Joanna Auburn (left) and Catherine Long (right). Image: Supplied

Why is being green personally important to you?

I just I love the outdoors and I love the environment. I've always enjoyed spending time outside. And if I don't get outside in a day, I find I feel anxious. It's something that I've always loved and, having grown up in the countryside, it's something that's very important to me.

And ultimately, a lot of those other things that are important to us all – like family, health and having a career – that would mean nothing if we didn't have a planet to live on. ”

Joanna Auburn

I think everybody's motivations and desires and dreams in their lives could all be impacted by climate change if we don't contribute.

But also, other countries – actually, often the less fortunate ones – are the ones that feel the changes from climate change first. And actually a lot of inequality then stems from that.

So by not funding or helping with climate change [when we're] in a fortunate position, we're actually just disadvantaging those that are less fortunate even more... And I think [in Australia] we've been given a sort of… eye into what it could be like with the bushfires and it's truly terrible.

And I just think the impact of that [is] that we all need to make a difference. And being able to build a business around that is really rewarding.

Could you describe one small step people could take towards being greener?

I think one of the big ones that we can do is make sure we're not funding fossil fuels through hidden things that aren't super clear from the outset because they're not things that companies [openly share].

A lot of the things that we pay regularly – like super and energy and even insurance companies – are backed by large fossil fuel organisations. So I think switching your super is one of the really powerful things you can do. It sends a message to the government as well, if a lot of people are switching away from portfolios that do contribute towards the fossil fuel industry.

And it's actually not that difficult to do. Being comfortable with your decision of the [fund] that you're switching to is probably the hardest part but there's lots of information and guidance out there. And then once you want to do it... it's all handled for you.

What is one resource that you think people should read/watch/consume to understand more about sustainability and going green?

I love to follow – on my social media channels like LinkedIn and Instagram – other brands that are doing good things as well. And they often post or share things that they're looking for.

Likewise with Trace, we will be posting things that we find interesting. So I'd say looking at other brands that you know are doing good. Some of the ones that come to mind for Australia are Thankyou or Who Gives A Crap? And 1 Million Women is an amazing organisation, and their content and tips and little life hacks are really good.

We're trying to do the same thing through Trace: provide really digestible, fun little things for you to read and [engage with]. So I think follow a few key people and the content will come to you – the [social media] algorithms are set up to do that.

Disclosure: Prior to co-founding Trace, Joanna Auburn worked at Finder.

Going Green is an interview series that sheds light on companies, organisations and initiatives that have a focus on sustainability and ethics. We ask a representative from each company the same five questions so you can get a snapshot of the work they are doing to help protect the planet.

Want more info and tips for making greener choices? Check out the Finder Green homepage.

More from Finder Green

Image credits: Getty Images, Supplied (Joanna Auburn)

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