How does Commons choose sustainable brands?

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Commons chooses for brands that measurably reduce global emissions and responsibly steward our shared resources.

Through our rigorous evaluation process, brands receive a high-level rating based on their performance in our Carbon, Environmental, and Social criteria.Commons evaluates and selects brands that meet at least one of these criteria:

Low-emissions business models, sustainable business practices.

Can companies pay to be a commons’ sustainable brand?

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No. All of the companies in our brand directory are chosen based solely on our sustainable brand criteria.

Tell me more about Commons.

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We created Commons to take the guesswork out of climate action. Commons harnesses the collective power of people to tackle the climate crisis, starting with the emissions from their own spending. Use the Commons app to:

  • Measure your footprint. Track the emissions of everything you buy and see your highest emissions purchases to prioritize your climate practice.
  • Build your low-carbon lifestyle. Get guidance and practical advice to build your climate practice and lower your footprint.
  • Offset effectively. Offset your remaining emissions by supporting vetted climate projects through the Commons Offset Portfolio.

As part of Commons, you’ll also have support, motivation, and inspiration from a community of people shaping a more sustainable world. 

Who is behind Commons?

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We’re a small, passionate team headquartered in Oakland, CA and based across the US. Our team brings years of experience from companies like Calm, Headspace, Stitch Fix, Strava, Axios, and Dave. Each of us is on our own climate journey, adopting more practices to live in balance with the planet. We’re passionate about helping people harness the power of their spending to measurably reduce emissions. With this collective effort, we will influence companies and governments to take faster action on climate change.

Our founder, Sanchali Pal, started Commons in 2019. She started calculating her personal emissions to understand which of her actions could make a difference in addressing the climate crisis. So she did what any economics major would do — she started a spreadsheet. Over time, she lowered her emissions by 30%, saved money, and built a better life along the way. Commons has come a long way since then, becoming a critical  tool for thousands of people.

As of 2023, Commons has raised $13.5 million in funding. Our investors include Sequoia Capital, climate investors Amasia and Norrsken, and the founders of Headspace, Fitbit, Candy Crush, and Nest. Commons has also received funding from public figures like Maisie Williams and Jay-Z’s Arrive. We got our initial starting capital in grants from Harvard and MIT.

What impact have Commons users had so far?

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In 2022, the Commons community lowered our collective emissions by 20%. If everyone in the U.S. lowered emissions by that same amount, the impact would be equivalent to taking every car off the road and shutting down 40% of coal plants.

Where is Commons available?

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Commons is available on iOS and Android in the U.S. and Canada. We'll be expanding to additional countries in the future. If Commons isn’t available in your country yet, get on our waitlist to be the first to know when we arrive.

How does Commons calculate my footprint?

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Your carbon footprint is an estimation of all the emissions that come from the products, services, and energy that you use. Commons calculates the emissions of your purchase by combining information on your lifestyle (via the Carbon Survey) with datasets on the local carbon intensity of production, transportation, and end-of-life use of over 180 spending categories. We aggregate this information to calculate your personalized carbon footprint.

For example, when you purchase energy for your home or gasoline for your car, Commons factors in the energy costs in your area to determine how much you’re purchasing. While the emissions of your grocery bill will be calculated based on how frequently you eat certain meats, since meat is a high-emission food.

Read more about the Commons proprietary carbon calculator to learn more about how we calculate carbon footprints.

Is it safe to connect my cards to Commons?

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Commons uses Plaid to connect to your bank account(s). Plaid is an API trusted by financial companies like Venmo, Mint, Truebill, and Paypal for its bank-level security and support across banking institutions. With Plaid, services (such as financial providers and carbon trackers) can analyze and provide insights about a users’ banking transactions, but they cannot access the bank account itself. 

So when you connect your card(s) to Commons using Plaid, we cannot (and will not) charge your account, withdraw or transfer money, or create a transaction on the account in any way. 

We take privacy seriously. You own your data and we don’t share your data without your consent, and we never sell your data. We don't see or store sensitive information about you or your finances. When you log into your bank account through Plaid, Commons does not see your credentials. We also don't charge you for carbon tracking. Tracking your carbon emissions is free, and always will be. 

Read more in our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.

How does Commons make money?

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When you purchase offsets, Commons charges a 20% transaction fee to cover the costs of our time-intensive evaluation and monitoring processes. We hope to reduce this fee as the offset market improves to become more efficient and transparent.

What are carbon offsets?

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Purchasing carbon offsets is a way to compensate for your emissions by supporting projects that are drawing down emissions in one of two ways: 

  • They avoid emissions by replacing fossil fuel energy or preventing natural carbon sinks (like forests) from being destroyed.
  • They absorb emissions by preserving or expanding natural carbon sinks, or by using technology to suck emissions out of the air. 

Here’s how purchasing offsets works: 

  • A climate project works to tackle carbon emissions with efforts like reforestation, soil restoration, or direct air capture. A credit is created for every metric ton of emissions (1,000 kg CO2e)they avoid or absorb. 
  • These carbon credits become offsets when a person or organization purchases them to compensate for their emissions. Offsets should only be purchased once, then retired. A high-integrity offset project will not collect more offset purchases than the credits they’re creating, and wouldn’t have happened without your offset dollars paying for those credits to be produced.
  • After an offset if purchased, it should be retired. 

How does Commons choose offsets?

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The Commons team works with experts and third-arty evaluators to regularly vet, monitor, and select evidence-backed projects that support positive outcomes for people and the planet.

We use a portfolio approach to maximize impact by balancing a portfolio of projects that draw down carbon now and in the future.  Our methodology is aligned with the Oxford Offsetting Principles.

In a market that lacks regulation and standardization, Commons sets an example by prioritizing and monitoring high-integrity offset projects on an ongoing basis. If a project is selected but fails to continue to meet our evaluation standards, it’ is removed from our portfolio.

High-integrity carbon offsets are: 

  • Verifiable: Confirmed by a third party
  • Enforceable: Recorded to ensure they can only be claimed once
  • Additional: Wouldn’t have happened otherwise
  • Permanent: Hard to reverse
  • Transparent: Well-documented

At Commons, we also believe that offsets should have transformative potential to contribute to just and sustainable world. Our transformative potenatial criteria are:

  • Efficiency: Low overhead costs
  • Scalability: Can contribute meaningfully to climate targets
  • Catalytic potential: Advances innovative approaches
  • Environmental benefits: Impact on local ecosystems
  • Community benefits: Support for local communities

How are Commons’ offsets different from others?

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With Commons, you support high-impact projects that avoid or absorb carbon around the world, backed by evidence and analysis. Our offsets differ in three key ways:

They’re personalized. When you buy offsets with a traditional, flat-fee subscription, there’s less motivation to lower your emissions. In fact, some people use offsets as permission to pollute. But Commons’ personalized Climate Neutral subscription rewards you for living lighter. You offset exactly what you buy, and pay less when you emit less.

They’re rigorous and prioritize environmental justice. Our team of experts meticulously evaluates and monitors projects so you don’t have to. We conducted deep evaluations of 24 top offset providers and selected 6. 

It’s diversified. Every offset has a different risk and impact profile. That’s why we curate a portfolio of offsets that balance risk and impact, aligned with the Oxford Offsetting Principles to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Learn more about how we curate projects for the Commons Offset Portfolio.

Aren’t companies and governments responsible for the climate crisis? Why focus on people?

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No single person can change our economic systems. But collectively, our choices do have influence. 

As consumers, we influence over 65% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Ivanova et al., 2016). And research shows that an average person can reduce their emissions by 5-25%, especially if they receive real-time information on their carbon footprint (Jones and Kammen, 2011) (Moran et al, 2018).

Collective action starts with individuals, sparks community changes, and transforms companies and systems. Examples of collective action sparking systems change are all around us. A few we’ve been following recently include:

  • In early 2023, new data showed that the ozone layer is on track to fully receiver in the next forty years as a result of phasing out 88% of ozone depleting chemicals.
  • In 2021, France moved to ban short-haul domestic flights.
  • In 2021, the US passed a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure bill in November 2021 which allocates a historic $47 billion for climate resilience in the US. 
  • In May of 2021, Engine No.1 staged a successful shareholder rebellion at ExxonMobile. 
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