waterdrop, the microdrink manufacturer from Austria, and brand ambassador Mirjam Puchner want to work together to compensate for the ski racer’s CO2 emissions. To do this, they are working with the Danish climate tech company “Klimate” and investing in so-called “Blue Carbon”. Which is why the initiative contributes to environmental protection, but why CO2 compensation of this kind must also be viewed critically.
waterdrop’s idea behind the environmental initiative
The former Olympic athlete has been a brand ambassador for waterdrop since 2022. The idea of the new initiative is as follows: Since the release of environmentally harmful emissions in skiing due to competition trips cannot be avoided, these should be compensated for the 2023/2024 ski season. According to the company, the CO2 impact of Mirjam Puchner’s travels is calculated and compensated by waterdrop including a “generous buffer”. The aim is to ensure that sufficient CO2 is removed from the atmosphere. The emissions caused privately by the ski athlete are not taken into account.
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Blue Carbon is intended to enable long-term CO2 binding
In order to successfully implement the project goal, waterdrop teamed up with Climate-Tech called “Klimate” from Denmark, which specializes in carbon reduction. Blue Carbon should be part of the solution. This is the carbon stored by marine ecosystems such as sea grasses. In underwater coastal ecosystems, CO2 is supposed to be absorbed from the atmosphere and stored in the biomass and in the soil over long periods of time.
Specifically, you can imagine it like this: natural ocean currents push the algae out into the open sea until the resulting biomass sinks to the seabed, where it is then consumed by deep-sea organisms. The advantage: Blue Carbon binds CO2 more long-term than reforestation.
waterdrop has decided to invest almost 20 percent of the budget in an “Aquatic Biomass Sinking” project and to put the remaining 80 percent into the “Running Tide” project in the North Atlantic – this involves the cultivation of blue carbon the coast. However, no information was given about how large the overall budget for CO2 compensation is.
Unrealistic hype about CO2 binding through algae farms
Criticism of the Co2 harvest from algae
“The secret of CO2 compensation: Blue Carbon,” writes waterdrop in its press release about the new environmental protection initiative. But in the past there has also been criticism of projects such as the Running Tide in the North Atlantic, Trending Topic reported. A lot of time has passed and Running Tide now works with scientific support. The fact is, even if it is important to prioritize eliminating emissions rather than compensating for them, it is seen as positive that companies are addressing carbon reduction.
Points of criticism as to why algae farms can only partially bind relevant amounts of CO2 in the sea:
Efficient management by humans requires proximity to the coast, where there is always competition from fishing and shipping. So algae farm operators have to come to terms with them. In order to sustainably bind carbon through Blue Carbon, one gigaton of CO2 would need one million square meters of algae per year. According to a study by Stanford University, these are proportions that are not feasible for carbon harvesting from seaweed. In the past, such CO2 compensation projects have also faced criticism from environmental protection organizations because the prices to be paid were set too low. According to the WWF, trustworthy projects are awarded the gold standard; Running Tide has not (yet) been certified with it.
Only certain ocean regions in the Pacific near the equator are actually productive and suitable for blue carbon storage. There are still uncertainties about the impact on underwater ecosystems. That’s why Running Tide is working with Ocean Networks Canada on a research experiment that examines what happens to carbon-sequestering biomass after it sinks to the ocean floor. The effects it has on the deep sea are also being investigated.
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