PEOPLE: Why Joanna founded Trace to remove 105,000 tonnes of CO2

Cat and Jo in the park

Companies like Apple and CouriersPlease are making bold statements about their goals and accomplishments on reaching for carbon neutrality and off-setting their carbon emissions.

But how can everyday consumers ensure that we’re also off-setting our carbon footprint at an individual level?

This is what Joanna Auburn set out to address when she co-founded Trace, which uses members’ subscriptions to buy carbon offsets to neutralise their footprint. In this interview, Joanna outlines why she founded Trace and their approach to climate action.

  • What does it mean to ‘offset your carbon footprint’? How is this measured?

Offsetting your carbon footprint – what on earth does that mean?

Our carbon footprint is generated through our behaviours. Most things we do impact our footprint, anything from driving a car to reading our emails.

Many of us are conscious of our footprint and try to reduce our impact. Some people only buy second-hand clothes, others eat a plant-based diet and a small handful of superhumans (!) manage to cram their entire year’s worth of waste into a glass jar. And yet despite some of the most determined efforts to achieve net zero emissions, humans will always have a carbon footprint. That much is certain.

A carbon offset (or carbon credit) is generated from an activity that prevents, reduces or removes greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. By purchasing carbon credits you are essentially funding these climate projects, and so ‘offsetting’ your footprint. 1 credit or offset = 1 tonne of carbon dioxide.  trace only purchases carbon credits from certified, externally verified, projects. The Gold Standard is an organisation that audits projects to ensure that 1 credit has the value of 1 tonne of carbon.

One of the best analogies I have heard to explain how offsetting works is to imagine a bath full of water. If you imagine that by living your life you are filling up the bath with water (carbon dioxide), offsetting is like pulling the plug and letting some of the water drain out.

  • What is Trace’s approach to helping consumers become carbon neutral?

We make it easy and rewarding for individuals to become carbon neutral. We procure carbon credits on our consumers’ behalf which offsets their carbon footprint. Carbon credits were not traditionally made for consumers, so we are turning what is currently a complex market with a transactional experience into a rewarding membership.

And if you’re lucky enough to work for one of trace’s amazing corporate clients, you are part of a handful of ‘carbon positive workforces’ in Australia – how good!

  • Why did you decide on a membership model?

We are building a movement and memberships give you a sense of belonging, like you are part of something. We want to build a community of people who care and can drive change.

  • Carbon emissions can be an overwhelming concept and climate anxiety is a particularly growing problem among younger generations. How do you recommend people approach concepts like climate change, carbon neutrality and carbon emissions, considering something as ‘positive’ as a party with 100 guests can lead to 15 tonnes of CO2?

Here here, we totally understand and this is exactly why we built trace! There is an increasing urgent pressure looming over us to act and do more for the environment. The problem is, as individuals, we don’t know what to do. This state of flux drives anxiety and ultimately in-action.

Many of us do small things everyday to wave the environmental flag, whether it be using a keep cup, recycling a plastic bottle or taking your own bag to the supermarket I am sure you can relate. In fact keep cups are used in over 65 countries around the world. The irony is that we go to great lengths to bring that reusable bag to the supermarket but most of us then jump in the car or (pre-COVID) hop on a plane and all the good is unravelled.

Unfortunately, even the most diligent and environmentally conscious individuals and businesses have a carbon footprint, anything from charging your phone to reading emails emits carbon.

We understand this dilemma and call ourselves “Climate conscious hypocrites”, and so built a product that enables you to give back to mother earth for all those things you just can’t change (easily). Whether you’re a jetsetter or an eco-warrior, Trace’s affordable monthly membership helps you take climate action by offsetting your footprint. And better yet, you can see exactly where your money is spent, read stories from the projects you support and see your impact grow over time.

  • What are the end-goals Trace is working towards? How do you measure success?

Our mission is to fuel a sustainable future, and have a meaningful impact in the fight against the climate crisis.

It is quite easy for us to put a number on our impact – a carbon offset or credit is equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2e, we have aggressive targets to remove 105,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2020. That is equivalent to us having 5000 members.


About the expert

Joanna is the co founder and CPO of trace, she is an experienced product manager with a passion for sustainability and customer experience.  She has recently taken the leap to full time entrepreneurship after a career across a range of industries including renewable energy and fintech.


Image description: A headshot of Trace’s co-founders, Cat and Jo in the park. Both are smiling and looking at the camera, wearing light coloured sweaters.