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See your spending footprint

This tech analyses every pound you spend to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
See your spending footprint

This article first appeared in our COP26 issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 05 November 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Should you be flying less? Going vegan? Giving up fast fashion – or simply recycling more?

As the topic of sustainability goes mainstream, it’s getting more and more difficult to work out what we should (and shouldn’t) be doing to live a sustainable lifestyle.

A new startup, Tred, is helping to solve that problem by boiling it all down to one simple question: how do you spend your money?

Tred is launching a new debit card that makes your money work as hard for the planet as it does for you. The flashy green card plants trees as you spend, meaning that as you tap it to buy your daily coffee or weekly shop, you’re helping to reforest the planet.

An accompanying app also tracks your carbon footprint, using your spending data to give you a highly accurate insight into your personal impact on the planet and showing you where you can cut down. It also gives you an option to offset your carbon footprint each month, helping you to shift towards a carbon-neutral lifestyle.

How to make an impact

Tred co-founders Will Smith and Peter Kirby were inspired by their personal experiences of trying to live sustainably in the face of a looming climate crisis.

‘We spend so much time worrying about using plastic straws or wondering whether or not to buy certain foods’, Peter tells us. ‘It can get really stressful trying to work out what’s better or worse for the planet. I’ve definitely had that feeling of being overwhelmed by it all.’

Peter points out that this stress can cause people to feel paralysed and do nothing at all, which is the worst possible outcome.

Tred was created to solve this problem. ‘Tred came out of a conversation Will and I had; we agreed that it really shouldn’t be this hard to do the right thing when it comes to our planet’, Peter continues. ‘How can we make it as easy as possible for people to make the biggest impact possible?’

See your spending footprint

Will and Peter identified money as the common thread that links a range of sustainable behaviours, from a planet-friendly diet to low-emission travel.

Tred’s revolutionary technology calculates the CO2 emitted from every pound you spend, making it easy for individuals to spot the areas of their lifestyle that are making the biggest impact on the planet, and ultimately reduce that impact by changing what they buy.

Customers can choose to offset their footprint each month, and decide how their carbon emissions are counterbalanced. Linked projects range from tree planting and renewable energy to sustainable building.

Subscribers can cap their monthly offsetting spend to prevent any expensive surprises, but Will and Peter say the average person’s bill will be around £11 a month – roughly the price of a coffee a week.

Plant trees in the UK

While Tred hasn’t yet applied for an official banking licence – its early debit card will work like a prepaid card – it’s clear this is no gimmick and that Will and Peter have long-term ambitions.

Will emphasises the importance of the company’s ‘you spend, we plant’ model, which redirects some of Tred’s revenue from debit card fees towards tree-planting projects in the UK.

‘It shouldn’t just be down to individuals to change their spending habits – financial corporations have to do their bit, too’, Will explains. ‘We wanted to make sure that when people entrust their money to us, we’re using it for good.’

Building a positive future

It’s an admirable goal, and one that is clearly resonating with the thousands of people already on Tred’s waiting list.

The impact of individual climate change actions is of course set against a backdrop of ongoing government and corporate hesitation when it comes to engaging in large scale change, but Peter is bullish about Tred’s odds.

‘We’re not pretending that Tred has all the answers’, Peter says. ‘But we know there are lots of people out there who care about this planet that we live on, and want to do their bit to make a difference. We hope that Tred can help those people use their money to build a positive future – and if there are enough of us, the impact we have will be huge.’

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