Heard about the new app touted as the “Fitbit for your carbon footprint”? Say hello to Capture; a consumer app that enables users to track, reduce, and remove CO2 emissions from everyday life. We chat to Josie Stoker, Capture’s inspirational co-founder, to talk technology, conscious living, the problem with carbon-offsetting, flight shaming, and how Capture will revolutionise the way we think about our carbon footprints.
We’re no strangers to the warnings issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Put bluntly, should carbon emissions continue at current rates, we’ll exceed the red line of 1.5 degrees of warming and place the world at immediate risk of catastrophic climate consequences. And according to a long-term report by the MET office, we’re on track to hit this point of no return by 2023. Although nearly 200 nations outlined plans to reduce carbon emissions following the 2016 Paris Agreement, more drastic measures are needed if we are to meet the 2050 target of net-zero. To get anywhere near hitting these targets, governments and businesses need to make an urgent, concerted effort to push the low-carbon agenda. But it’s easy to point the finger and place the blame at the feet of corporate institutions. What can we do as individuals to help reduce our carbon emissions? Enter, Capture.
Introducing Josie Stoker
Before launching Capture, Josie co-founded the Nomadic School of Business (a leadership development company helping executives learn from indigenous groups in Mongolia, Africa, and Asia), she saw first-hand the devastating effects of climate change. Through her research and time spent with indigenous people, she witnessed the devastating impact of drought, extreme winters, and forest fires. As her climate anxiety grew, so did her drive to make positive change.
Fast forward to 2019, and after resettling in Singapore, Josie joined the innovative Antler program, a global start-up generator, with a plan to create a climate-conscious business. Drawing on her previous experience and after meeting her co-founder, Abdul Aziz, the seed of an idea began to grow. The pair started working on Capture in August 2019, releasing the first iteration of the app on 1 January 2020.
So what is it exactly? In a nutshell, Capture is a consumer app enabling users to track, reduce and remove CO2 emissions from everyday life. It also helps users offset their carbon footprints on a subscription basis, transforming them from ‘climate worrier’ to ‘climate warrior’. Sounds good to us. We caught up with Josie to find out how Capture is set to revolutionise the way we think about our carbon footprints.
What inspired you to create the app?
“I’d been feeling overwhelmed by the climate crisis, and I knew millions of others out there felt the same way. I’ve seen so many great tech products built around health and fitness tracking (Clue, MyFitness Pal, and Headspace, for example). They all track things we care about and want to improve on. But I couldn’t find anything that would do the same for my carbon emissions. And I just thought, ‘somebody should make this’. I joined the Antler program in Singapore to find an incredible CoFounder with technical expertise – and that’s what we’ve done!”
2019 saw global awareness of the climate crisis ratchet up. How has your lifestyle evolved to become more climate-conscious?
“It’s been incredible to watch this all unfurl all while we were working on the initial version of Capture. It’s like the world is waking up, and it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of these developments. We believe that the climate change movement is just beginning. Climate change isn’t going away – it’s the ultimate challenge of this decade.
I’m not from a climate science background, and I want to be super-open about that, so a lot of the changes I’m making are changes that I’ve been learning along the way. I’ve tried to go for changes that fit in the sweet spot of high-impact and relatively easy for my lifestyle first. Flights are my biggest nemesis, and with family in the UK and an upcoming wedding, I can’t give them up! Eating a plant-based diet, opening a sustainable savings account (check out nutmeg and keep an eye on mattrvest), taking public transport and choosing to share a ride instead of taking a private taxi are all simple steps – but there’s so much more I want to do.”
When it comes to reducing carbon emissions, is offsetting the answer?
“Carbon offsetting is the process of balancing your CO2 emissions (or CO2-equivalents for other greenhouse gases). You can do that through purchasing something called a carbon credit. Carbon credits are created from projects that prevent or absorb (‘sequester’) CO2. They are verified through several organisations including GoldStandard or Verra. Carbon offsets have been around for a long time in the B2B space, and more recently there has been consumer interest in purchasing carbon offsets.
But the best thing to do regarding carbon emissions is to first focus on actually reducing them – then use offsetting as a ‘last resort’. But the problem is two-fold. Firstly it’s challenging to keep track of how our choices cause emissions. And secondly, changing our lives to reduce emissions can be inconvenient (but, like carrying a reusable cup, is usually worth it).
I once heard from a climate change expert that ‘the only thing worse than carbon offsetting is not carbon offsetting’. That said, there are several significant problems with carbon offsetting.”
Tell us more…
“Firstly, there’s the danger with offsetting of misleading people to think that their emissions can be immediately cancelled out. Which can then lead to a lack of purpose to change their underlying behaviour. In reality, carbon offsets (AKA the purchasing of carbon credits) does not have this effect. If you purchase a carbon offset through a tree-planting project today, it can take 30-years before those trees have absorbed the carbon you paid to offset. And for all of that time, CO2 is still in the atmosphere causing a warming effect.
The second problem with offsetting is a little more complicated and only applies to some project types. Let’s say you’re a company that is going to commission a large wind farm. You calculate that through the building of this wind farm, you’re going to help prevent 1 million tonnes of CO2 from being emitted (because homes will not need to use energy from a coal power-plant). Now, alongside selling that renewable energy to homes, you can also sell carbon credits. You can sell 1 million credits that will allow individuals and businesses to pollute 1 million tonnes of CO2 and claim it’s ‘carbon neutral’ — feeling uncomfortable yet? What the world needs fast is a reduction in CO2 emissions – and in my humble opinion, offsets from renewable energy projects do not help do that.
And that’s why it’s essential to carefully think about the type of carbon offsetting project you want to support as not all offsets are created equal. I’d look for projects that support tree planting on previously-degraded agricultural land, or forest conservation projects. However, these are often more expensive (and I appreciate it’s a relatively privileged thing to be able to offset your emissions). You’re looking at around the price of a soy latte a week! But I personally still do it, and I’m proud to have carbon offsetting projects that are making a positive, tangible difference for sale via the Capture app.”
Flight shaming is now a ‘thing’. What’s your take on the issue?
“I can think of few scenarios where causing shame has resulted in positive change. But on the other hand, the movement has helped people become aware of how much damage a flight does, and I think it’s essential for us to have all the information. A great resource is shameplane.com, where you can compare the arctic ice melted per passenger per flight with other sustainable actions.
What I’ve seen is that some individuals take considerable efforts to pursue sustainable lives in some ways, such as eating locally-produced food, but then take excessive flights, perhaps without realising the damage. One return flight from Hong Kong to Singapore effectively ‘cancels out’ an entire year of eating locally-sourced food (which can help you reduce your carbon emissions by 0.36 tonnes). In contrast, a return flight from Singapore to Hong Kong can lead to 1.2 tonnes of CO2.
In many cases, flights are simply the easiest (and sometimes even cheapest) way to get around. And let’s not forget that most of us take flights for important events (a wedding, a dream job interview, healthcare). I think a blanket ‘shame’ approach for flights has the potential to turn more people off from the environmental movement that it could help the situation.
In the meantime, I try to avoid flying where I can, and I’m taking my first ‘long-haul’ train journey from Singapore to Bangkok in early March for a conference. 33 hours – wish me luck!”
Capture had been described as the ‘Fitbit for your carbon footprint’. Why should we all download it?
“If you’re feeling powerless in the face of the climate crisis, want to learn more about the impact your everyday actions have on CO2 emissions, or if you’d like to efficiently support carbon offsetting projects to balance your monthly emissions, we’ve got your back.
There are so many more features we are adding, and we’d love to invite you to join us along our journey of becoming the first super-app for climate change! Your feedback will help determine the future features and designs for the product, and you’ll have a climate guru in your pocket from the very beginning.”
What does the future hold for Capture?
“You can expect to see some huge improvements to the app over the coming months & years. We are currently raising our seed round to help us expand our team. It will allow us to keep improving the app (we’ve got a lot of work to do!), plus start work on a cool feature that will enable organisations to use Capture to track, reduce and remove CO2 emissions from employee travel. The future is bright.”
If you’re a corporate team and would like to join the waiting list for the new Capture for Teams service, please drop Josie a brief email to [email protected]