One perhaps unintended consequence of travel coming to a near halt due to COVID-19 is the return of clearer skies and fewer carbon emissions.
For the startup Jet-Set Offset, which is a donation-based carbon offsetting tool for air travel, this is temporary good news on the sustainability front, but the startup is now reevaluating how it can help its partners amid the travel slowdown.
With Jet-Set Offset, named one of PhocusWire’s Hot 25 Startups for 2020, travelers can offset carbon emissions from flying by automatically donating one cent per mile to environmental organizations working to reduce carbon emissions.
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However, “as travel has slowed or even ceased, real-time mileage-based donations to our partners are also down,” says the company’s co-founder and CEO, Anna Ford.
“These nonprofits need our help now more than ever to continue their planet-saving projects,” she says, and to that end, Jet-Set Offset has pivoted its messaging and launched a month-long campaign to celebrate April as Earth Month and allow travelers to offset carbon emissions from past flights.
Ford says the #Offset10MillionMiles campaign aims to donate $100,000 to nonprofits working on the front lines to combat climate change. “Even though most of us aren’t flying right now, it’s easy to make a difference and continue to support nonprofit organizations.”
Although very few people are traveling, Ford says Jet-Set Offset has seen a 12% growth in membership over the past month, “signaling that awareness of the environmental impact of air travel is growing.
“New users are signing up daily to make donations to offset the emissions from past flights, and we’re confident that all of our members are ready to do so for future flights.”
Steering the course
Ford says that as the coronavirus crisis took hold, the very first step Jet-Set Offset took as a business was to check in with its partners, which resulted in the Earth Month campaign.
“Next, we took a hard look at our financial projections for the year. Revenue for Jet-Set Offset - based on the 3% service fee for donations received - will be down, so we’ve had to be creative about how to maintain our runway and shift focus.”
She says the company is reducing expenses as much as possible, limiting its marketing budget and focusing on development of new MVPs that address customers’ short-term needs as well as Jet-Set Offset’s long-term vision.
“We’ve also started looking for grant-based funding sources and are raising friends and family investment to make sure we will not only survive during this period of uncertainty, but thrive.”
Ford adds that Jet-Set Offset is one of eight startups currently participating in the SAP.iO Foundry San Francisco B2B travel technology accelerator and is using this time to build a new product vertical, Jet-Set Offset for Business.
Although Ford sees the current reduction in global emissions as a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis, the decline only matters if “this growing public consciousness continues and everyone is even more mindful of their carbon footprint when travel resumes.”
One worry she has is that when air travel does resume, industries will be less focused on sustainability.
“We think the need for Jet-Set Offset will be even greater when travel emerges from the coronavirus crisis, as consumers will feel the need to take responsibility for their carbon footprint from traveling.”
She also believes alternatives to air travel will become more popular in the future, as will virtual meetings in place of in-person.
“One of our core values at Jet-Set Offset is optimism, so we try to approach every challenge with a sense of hopefulness.”