Green Startup Cloverly Invests to Encourage New Types of Carbon Offsets
Hyperlocal Projects’ Co-benefits Enhance Their Positive Impact
ATLANTA, Ga. – The cleantech startup Cloverly has become the first buyer for an innovative, hyperlocal carbon offset project with significant spinoff benefits for nearby residents. Cloverly hopes its investment encourages the development of similar ventures and helps shift the way offset projects are valued.
The project is the Buena Vista Heights Preservation Project, an urban forestry initiative in suburban Pittsburgh. In addition to preventing carbon emissions, it provides considerable social, environmental and economic benefits for the local area. “Our offset portfolio already covers projects across North America and Europe,” said Cloverly Founder and CEO Anthony Oni. “As we continue to grow and diversify our supply, we believe that the emerging urban forestry category is crucial to the ongoing environmental efforts of urban communities. We look forward to adding more projects like it.”
Buena Vista Heights is an “avoided conversion” offset. It prevented 124 acres of trees near the Youghiogheny River in Buena Vista, Pennsylvania, from being converted into an already planned and platted housing development. Bulldozing the trees would have released an estimated 13,966 metric tons (15,395 U.S. tons) of carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Allegheny Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that protects natural land in the Pittsburgh area, bought the property from a developer. The trust has saved more than 2,700 acres of green space across 31 municipalities. This was the first time it sold carbon offsets (also known as carbon credits) to help finance one of its projects.
Carbon offsets are investments in projects that reduce or avoid carbon emissions, or that sequester (capture and store) carbon that has already been emitted. Each offset represents 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent.
Alyson Fearon, senior director of community conservation and resiliency for the trust, said the extra revenue stream from offsets would pay for improving the health of the forest and providing habitat for more species of wildlife.
“ALT is excited that Cloverly is our first buyer,” she said. “Your mission – what you’re using your carbon credits for – is something that we fully support, which is the local benefit and local impacts.”
Cloverly’s Sustainability-as-a-Service API platform helps businesses and organizations neutralize their carbon impact by connecting them to the carbon market infrastructure. The Cloverly API calculates the carbon footprint of a business or organization on a per-transaction basis and matches the impact with carbon offsets. It can green everyday activities like ecommerce deliveries, ridesharing, supply chain operations, flights and more.
Buena Vista Heights is significantly smaller than most carbon offset projects. In the forestry category, for example, “most traditional carbon projects are a minimum of 5,000 acres, and they go up to hundreds of thousands of acres,” said Ben Massie, vice president of environmental markets for Bluesource. Bluesource, an award-winning U.S. and Canadian carbon project developer and retailer, provided the carbon expertise for Buena Vista Heights and is marketing the offsets.
Smaller size means less carbon sequestered. The Buena Vista Heights project compensates by offering a lot of extra benefits for nearby residents. According to a nonprofit organization called City Forest Credits, city trees cool streets, filter pollutants, provide shade, promote physical activity and even improve mental health. On top of that, Buena Vista Heights offers deer and turkey hunting and wildlife-watching.
Most significantly, it provides crucial flood mitigation, absorbing an estimated 128 million gallons of stormwater a year. “In urbanized areas in Allegheny County, we have significant flooding and flash flooding,” Fearon said. “So stormwater management is important.”
City Forest Credits, founded in 2015, has developed protocols for city forest projects to make sure they meet accepted international standards for carbon offset projects. It also serves as a certification registry that lists the projects and their verification documents. Buena Vista Heights is only the third active urban forest preservation project in the City Forest Credits registry.
Smaller projects generate fewer credits, so their per-credit price has to be two or three times that of a typical offset. Oni said Cloverly recognized the extra value that made the investment worthwhile: “To this point, carbon markets have looked at offsets basically as interchangeable commodities, which means the only variable the market usually considers is price. We’d like to change that. Our customers are not looking for the cheapest credits. They’re looking for projects that have real meaning to them.”
Massie said Cloverly’s willingness to invest could give a major boost to similar boutique ventures. “There are potential projects out there that are bottled up because they don’t think they can get that price point for the carbon credits,” he said.
Cloverly would love to support them. “Cloverly’s business model breaks down the credits we buy into microunits for neutralizing the carbon impact of even small transactions,” Oni said. “That allows customers of all types to participate in the carbon market and fight climate change, regardless of budget. And with the addition of urban forestry credits to the Cloverly portfolio, our customers can now provide enhanced benefits to their local communities as well.“