Carbon Offsets Now Available on the High Street

Carbon offsets are by no means a magic bullet solution to climate change. We've covered both sides of the controversy surrounding this issue before, for example here and here. However, whichever side of the debate you fall on, there is no doubt that offsets are gaining in popularity. The latest sign of this trend is the announcement by the Co-operative Group that they have become the first in the UK to move carbon offsetting from the internet into the high street.From now on, customers of the Co-op's travel business, Travelcare, will be able to 'counter' the environmental effects of their holiday flights by buying carbon offsets at its branches. It means that for the first time UK consumers can walk into a high street retail outlet and buy carbon dioxide offset on the spot — whereas previously they had to use the internet. This is likely to significantly increase both the visibility and customer up-take of offsetting schemes.

The Co-operative Group guarantees that all carbon offset payments will support its Climate Care projects, such as the provision of household "biogas" systems that provide renewable cooking fuel and wind turbines in India. Last year the Group supported Climate Care projects to the tune of £250,000.

Paul Kendrick, Travelcare's head of strategic development, said: "Air travel is a part of everyday life and people continue to want to take a holiday. We recognise that more and more travellers are becoming concerned about the impact their holidays have on the climate. This initiative — a high street first — makes it easy for them to neutralise the biggest environmental impact of their holiday, the flight."

He went on to explain that this is part of a much wider environmental strategy.

"This is another important step for the Co-operative Group, which has for some time been at the forefront of the battle against climate change. We led the switch to green electricity back in 1998 and began pioneering good quality offsets with Co-operative Bank mortgages in 2000.

"The pressing need for the UK to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions significantly now means that all available tools will need to be deployed in the problematic growth area of aviation. Until now that has been quite difficult to calculate but we have made it really easy and we can assure customers that all the contributions will go directly to Climate Care and that we will not profit from it."

Earlier this year, the 400 ft service tower of the Co-operative Insurance CIS building in the centre of Manchester was covered with 7,000 solar panels, and an inner city wind farm was established by erecting 19 micro-wind turbines on the roof of another CIS building in the city.

[Written by: Sami Grover]